UW Madison Outlasts the Competition in Electric Sled Range Test

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

The sled from the University of Wisconsin-Madison kept going and going and going.

Wisconsin made 27 laps of the Keweenaw Research Center’s 0.6-mile test track plus the 1-mile trip to the track itself, completing a total of 17.2 miles to dominate the 2008 SAE Clean Snowmobile Competition’s Electric Sled Range Challenge held Tuesday.

In the challenge, snowmobiles re-engineered to run solely on electric power were led to the Keweenaw Research Center’s test track and allowed to make as many laps as they could until they could no longer safely sustain a 20 mile per hour pace.

"The sled ran fine," said Wisconsin rider Nick Rakovec. "We had a good, robust design with good cooling, and our direct drive system helped with our efficiency."

Wisconsin team members speculate they could have easily made several more laps of the track; however, with victory secured they chose to quit once their sled's onboard voltage meter fell below a certain level in order to make recharging the battery for later events more efficient. Even so, that proved to be quite some time, as their sled continued to follow the pace sled around the track uncontested with no end in sight.

Also participating in the challenge's zero-emissions division were McGill University, which completed 1.7 miles before its motor started smoking; Clarkson University, which completed 4.6 miles before its sled began to overheat; and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, which completed over 7.9 miles before their sled’s battery lost charge.

"We didn’t do bad. We did much better than last year," said Clarkson rider Rob Franklin. "It was running fine until it got too hot. We could have kept going if it weren’t for that. It still runs, just too hot."

(Editor's note: This story was contributed by student writer Mark Blehm.)

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.