Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have Started Our Engine

Written By: Sara Lepley

An engine is possibly the most important part of a vehicle. Without one, you are basically sitting in a very expensive chair.

Although each of the 2016 Chevrolet Camaros donated by General Motors comes with a V6 engine, EcoCAR 3 challenges the teams to replace it with an engine of their choosing when turning the car into a performance hybrid. Only one team—Virginia Tech—opted for a V8 engine, which they acquired from a Chevrolet Silverado. They quickly learned that replacing one engine for another is easier said than done.

The process started in November. It took two weeks to take the engine out of the Silverado. The biggest challenge was removing all of the components necessary to run the engine without cutting any wires, pipes or hoses,” said Brian Mongilio, a mechanical sub-team member. “We documented every step to ensure we could recreate the exact process in the future.”

They also had to make a stand big enough to accommodate the V8. First, they made a box frame to support the engine mounts. Next, they cut, machined and welded the frame. Lastly, they melded on transmission mounts to the stand to provide stability and allow them to use some of the existing Silverado structure. Once they built the mounting structure for the engine, they began reconnecting as much of the wiring harness as possible. This ensured that they had all the control modules and signals necessary for the engine to start.

“Although we had almost all of the wiring, our first successful start required us to transmit some fake signals from a laptop to convince the engine that it was okay to run outside of the truck,” said Mongilio. “But because of that, we were able to learn how to change the physical wiring so that we can now run the engine without any external signals.”

As you might expect, the team felt incredibly excited when they were able to get the engine to finally run when out of the vehicle.

“A lot of our success was due to a relatively small team of 6-8 of us from different sub-teams working together for long hours with a common goal,” said Mongilio. “We all learned an incredible amount from the challenge and from each other.”

While the team still needs to integrate the engine, this was an important step in transforming the Camaro into a performance hybrid vehicle.