Four Clean Snowmobiles Complete Endurance Run

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Four teams of college students from across North America have proven that good engineering can wring enough mileage out of ethanol to power a snowmobile up to 100 miles.

Sleds from the University of Wisconsin at Platteville, Kettering University in Flint, Mich., Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., finished the Endurance Run, a hundred-mile trek that kicks off the SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge.

Now under way 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, all teams in the challenge’s internal combustion division were required to use biofuels such as E85 ethanol, a constraint that can prove daunting on long-distance trips like the Endurance Run. Alcohol contains less energy than gasoline, so vehicles powered with E85 typically burn more fuel per mile.

Those that completed the trip arrived together at the Mariner North Restaurant in Michigan’s northernmost city, Copper Harbor.
Driver Nick Baillargeon of Clarkson was ebullient. "We are happy," he said. "We’re a new team, a young team, a small team, and it went awesome.”

Kettering’s driver Brian Schickel reported that his fuel light went on about 20 miles from the finish, but fortunately, his ethanol held out long enough. "Everything ran great," he said.
"No complaints,” said Platteville’s Ryan Kubat. "Everything ran good, and the trails were nice."

"This proves that it can be done," said Jay Meldrum, director of the Keweenaw Research Center and co-director of the challenge. "We've shown that you can go 100 miles on E85 on a real trail. We even had a first-year team, Northern Illinois, finish, and that's pretty impressive."

The first leg of the Endurance Run includes laps around a sinuous, snow-covered track. Four teams, the State University of New York at Buffalo, Minnesota State University at Mankato, the University of Idaho and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, dropped out with mechanical difficulties before proceeding to the second phase, a trail ride north.

Michigan Tech’s sled was able to continue out onto the snowmobile trail to Copper Harbor, but had to drop out later when it experienced mechanical problems. École de Téchnologie Superieure, of Montreal, Canada, ran out of fuel on the trail.

Teams from the University of Maine and McGill University, in Montreal, opted out of the Endurance Run.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge continues through Saturday, March 15, when the Polaris Acceleration and Handling events will be held at 10 and 11 a.m. at the Keweenaw Research Center. The public is invited; come prepared to walk on snow.

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.