GM is donating 16 Chevrolet Camaros to the EcoCar Challenge, throwing a twist into the tradition of modifying American muscle machines. Instead of making these Camaros go faster, 16 college teams will compete over the next four years attempting to minimize the Camaro’s environmental impact without sacrificing its performance or iconic image.

The EcoCar3 Challenge is a four year engineering course that includes 16 teams from the likes of Penn State and Wayne State Universaity. The teams must strive to balance fuel economy and performance in their new Camaros, and nw for the challenge are cost constraints, as well as calling for greater degrees of innovation. While not known for their efficiency or green credentials, Camaros have been converted using environmentally-friendly methods before.The winner of the three-year EcoCar2 Challenge was Penn State, which turned a donated Chevy Malibu into an E85-burning plug-in hybrid.

Basically, a slighty-bigger Chevy Volt that prefers corn to petrol. Cool stuff, right? All I ever built in college was a bunch of bad habits and a pile of debt.

The program is a major driver of engineering talent into the arms of GM, which has hired some 100 student competitors from past EcoCar challenges. While the article doesn’t specifiy, it’s safe to assume these are base model Camaro V6 vehicles, rather than the gas-guzzling Camaro SS, which would present a whole ‘nother set of challenges.

There, I just found the theme for the EcoCar4 Challenge; a 400 horsepower Camaro SS that can get 40 MPG on the highway.

Source: The Detroit News | EcoCar3 Challenge