The Most Marvelous Car At SEMA Is This Mid-Engine Hybrid Honda Civic Built By Some College Kids

This Honda Civic rallycross racer will zoom away to sixty MPH in about 2 seconds. It’s got a spec sheet that will slay almost anything else on the SEMA floor with 700 horsepower, 850 ft.-lb of torque, four wheel drive, four wheel steering, brake regeneration, and tailpipe emissions that exceed the 2025 EPA standards. The Civic, dubbed “Deep Orange 9" has a supercharged K20 engine in the back and a 200-horsepower battery-electric motor in the front. This isn’t a project built by Honda engineers to show off the company’s future tech, this was basically the Clemson University engineering program’s senior thesis.


The project took 18 months from design concept to where it sits right now, and the students tell me that at least 12 months of that was in the design and programming phase. They didn’t actually start wrenching until about six months ago. Their goal was to produce a car that was much faster than the average car on the market today, but with vastly improved emissions. It would seem that they’ve succeeded.

The team started with a Honda Civic body-in-white and a pile of parts. The K-series in the back was sourced from a dismantled Acura sedan, and the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research students boosted power a lot with a big supercharger. The design team added an active rear steer system of their own design, just to spice things up.


The engine is accessed through the rear doors. The fuel tank is held in what was the back seat, now engine compartment. The battery array lies in the foot well where the passenger’s seat once was. Of course, both are separated from the driver by thick firewalls, and a roll cage is integrated for proper safety.

Having spoken to the kids that actually assembled this monster of a rallycross car, they’re really damn smart. I have aspirations of building my own home-brew hybrid, so they were able to answer a lot of questions that most people have just shrugged off as impossible. Things like power delivery management and communication between the engine’s stand-alone ECU an the EV motor management were no problem for them. They’re the real deal.


Things at SEMA get lost in the shuffle, and for the most part people were walking by this car blissfully unaware that they were in the presence of pure badassery. To most people visiting the Fender Flare And Big Truck Nationals in Vegas this week, this was just another Honda Civic with flares and a wrap. I was drawn in by the electric vehicle signature bright orange high voltage wiring in the engine compartment. That’s not normally found in a Honda Civic.


Of everything I saw at SEMA this week, this one still blows me away just thinking about it. It’s the perfect opportunity for students to learn the necessary engineering disciplines that are desirable in the current automotive market, while building something fun and exciting. It’s so important these days to get smart kids involved in cars and motorsport, but also inspired to continue that involvement through their career. Great move, Clemson.


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Bradley Brownell

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.