Clean Snowmobile Challenge On Track For March

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By Marcia Goodrich

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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.

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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.

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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 Arctic locations.

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For the first time, teams will be invited to present design studies on a new concept, at least for snowmobiles: a hybrid electric vehicle.

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"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 discharged batteries.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is sponsored at Michigan Tech by the Keweenaw Research Center and the Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics.

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For more information, visit Michigan Tech's SAE Clean Snowmobile site.

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