Seventeen green machines are coming to snow-white Upper
Michigan March 5-10 for the 13th annual SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge, held
at Michigan Technological
University's Keweenaw Research Center.
The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is a collegiate design
competition of the Society of Automotive Engineers. A total of 12 teams are
registered in the internal combustion category. Engineering students from
participating schools take a stock snowmobile and reengineer it. Their aim: to
reduce emissions and noise and increase fuel efficiency while preserving the
riding excitement demanded by snowmobile enthusiasts.
Five teams are entered in the zero emissions category, for
battery-powered sleds, which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
NSF uses electric snowmobiles while conducting atmospheric research in pristine
For the first time, teams will be invited to present design
studies on a new concept, at least for snowmobiles: a hybrid electric vehicle.
"This would address the need for an extended-range electric
snowmobile," says co-organizer Jay Meldrum. "You could take an electric
snowmobile, put a 50-horsepower motor on the back, and drive it till you run
out of power. Then you could turn your recharger on and go farther." The
fuel-powered motor would serve essentially as a generator for the snowmobile's
He called the hybrid design a "range-anxiety reliever."
"Electric snowmobiles only go about 20 miles without a motor," he says. "For
scientists conducting research out on a glacier in Greenland,
it could get them back home."
Fuel economy-no matter what recipe the fuel-is again a top
priority in this year's Challenge. Sleds in the internal combustion category
will need to adapt to fuels with a range of ethanol concentrations, from E10
(10 percent) to E39 (39 percent). "If a team doesn't design for that, they
won't do well," Meldrum says.
Fuel economy will be measured in three ways. During the
Endurance Run, teams are rated in part on their snowmobiles' mileage during the
100-mile trek. Fuel usage will also be measured during the indoor emissions
testing. Lastly, the Challenge includes a mobile emissions test that
incorporates a fuel flow meter.
In addition to the NSF, major sponsors include the USDA
Forest Service; the National Park Service; automotive parts supplier DENSO;
Emitec Inc., a supplier of emissions-reduction technology; Phoenix
International, a John Deere company; Aristo Catalyst Technology; Mahle; and
Gage Products, which is providing fuel. A new sponsor is Camoplast. The
Sherbrooke, Quebec-based company is a global leader in rubber-track technology.
Local businesses provide services, donations and in-kind
contributions. Volunteers from the Michigan Snowmobile Association have pitched
in every year to provide logistical support and guidance to team members.
The teams that have registered for the Challenge in the
internal combustion category are Clarkson University, Potsdam, N.Y.; École de
Technologie Superieure, Montreal; Kettering University, Flint; Michigan Tech;
North Dakota State University; Northern Illinois University; State University
of New York at Buffalo; and the Universities of Alaska Fairbanks, Idaho,
Waterloo (Ontario), Wisconsin-Madison and Wisconsin-Platteville.
Teams registered in the zero emissions category are McGill University,
Montreal; Michigan Tech; South Dakota School of
Mines and Technology; the University
of Alaska Fairbanks; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is sponsored at Michigan Tech
by the Keweenaw Research Center and
the Department of Mechanical
For more information, visit Michigan Tech's SAE Clean Snowmobile site.