Clean, Green Snowmobiles at the Copper Country Mall Wednesday

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

In the world of motorsports, “clean and quiet” don’t often pair up with “driving excitement.” But at the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge, teams of college students from across the US and Canada are building green machines that still sizzle.

All 17 will be showing off their sleds to the public on Wednesday, March 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Copper Country Mall.

Set for Monday–Saturday, March 10–15, at Michigan Technological University, the Clean Snowmobile Challenge is the Society of Automotive Engineers' newest collegiate design competition. Engineering students from participating schools take a stock snowmobile and reengineer it to reduce emissions and noise while maintaining or improving performance.

This year, the teams face a new challenge. The 13 sleds in the internal combustion division are running on either ethanol or biodiesel. It's not because biofuel-powered sleds are necessarily the wave of the future, said event organizer Jay Meldrum. "But this is an engine competition," he says. "A great deal of R&D on ethanol, from corn or wood or switchgrass, is happening at universities all over the country, and this requirement will give the student engineers a chance to tap into the latest research."

Visitors can check out the quietest sleds of all: the four entries in the zero-emissions division, all powered by batteries. These machines don’t have the range or speed of traditional snowmobiles, but their pollution-free operation makes them perfect for scientific expeditions in arctic regions, where any emissions can contaminate atmospheric and ice samples.

The public is also welcome at the Polaris Acceleration and Handling Events, set for 10 and 11 a.m., Saturday, March 15, at the Keweenaw Research Center near the Houghton County Memorial Airport. The tracks are located well off the road, and no seating is provided; those attending should wear boots and dress for the weather.

Tickets are available for the awards banquet, set for Saturday, March 15, at 6 p.m., at Michigan Tech’s Memorial Union Ballroom. The cost is $25; tickets may be purchased by contacting Sue Kerttu, 487-2750.

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

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.