Subaru BRZ Hybrid Project Car Looks Like So Much Fun

Mississippi State’s “Car of the Future” is right up our alley.

byWill Sabel Courtney|
Builds photo

A team from Mississippi State University has transformed a Subaru BRZ into what they're describing as the "Car of the Future"—a plug-in series hybrid much like the Chevrolet Volt. Sounds like a cruel fate to subject such a fun car to, right? Keep reading. The Car of the Future is cooler than you think.

From the outside, the MSU BRZ, which was unveiled at the SAE World Congress last week, may look more or less stock, but beneath the skin it's a whole different beast than the lightweight sports coupe we know and love. The standard-issue boxer four has been cast aside, replaced with a pair of electric motors—one for each rear wheel—and a battery pack serving up 12.7 kWh of usable energy. That's enough power to provide at least 50 miles of all-electric driving according to the project team.

Photo: Hunter Hart

When the car starts to run low on juice, a two-cylinder, 850cc engine connected to a 100 kW generator kicks in, sending electrons flowing to the battery and the motors. Let the hybrid BRZ burn through its entire supply of gasoline and MSU says it'll go nearly 550 miles in total. To help extend its range as far as possible, MSU outfitted the car's CPU with range-optimizing algorithms that recognize past driving patterns, and use that information to predict future behavior.

Thanks to meticulous planning and the extensive adding of lightness, the MSU BRZ weighs in at only 2,904 pounds—roughly one Labrador Retriever more than a stock Toyobaru equipped with an automatic transmission. It's light enough to catapult from 0–60 in roughly 5.7 seconds, according to MSU's best estimate—around one second faster than a normal BRZ shackled to a slushbox. Having separate electric motors for each rear wheel gives the Car of the Future independent torque vectoring capability, which ought to boost the Subaru's already-substantial fun-to-drive quotient.

Photo: Hunter Hart

Ultimately, the Car of the Future is about maximizing efficiency, and this retrofitted Subie pulls that off with ease. MSU says their hybrid BRZ gets 104 miles per gallon equivalent. That's nearly as good as the second-generation Chevy Volt, which rings in at 106 mpge combined, according to the EPA. Hey, if it means getting to drive a lightweight RWD sports coupe instead of a front-wheel-drive family sedan, we'll happily give up in the equivalent of a couple miles per gallon. Plant a couple trees a year—boom—it all evens out.