Car Industry

This plug-in hybrid BRZ is quicker and more efficient than the production version

Subaru engineers, you might want to take notice.

When you give a brand-new sports car to a bunch of college kids, you probably don't expect it to come back in one piece. But if that car is a Subaru BRZ, and those kids are students at Mississippi State University's Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS), the result is a car that actually outperforms the original.

Over the course of a two-year project, CAVS students replaced the BRZ's 2.0-liter, flat-four engine with a 0.85-liter two-cylinder engine from a snowmobile, two electric motors at the rear wheels and a 12.7-kWh battery pack. The result is a plug-in series hybrid with an all-electric range of 50 miles and a full range (gas included) of 550 miles. Good luck stretching a tank of gas that far in a stock BRZ.

The hybrid system only adds 60 pounds over a stock, automatic-transmission BRZ, yet the 0-60 time improves to 5.7 seconds -- a whole second quicker than stock. The car also gains independent torque vectoring thanks to its electric motors, which again improves upon the BRZ.

And then there's the fuel economy. CAVS estimates that its BRZ will achieve 104 mpg equivalent (MPGe), which is just 2 MPGe behind the 2016 Chevrolet Volt. If an automaker hasn't already hired these students, or attempted to, they'd be wise to pay attention.