2018 Clean Snowmobile Challenge Starts Next Week

A snowmobile rider wearing an orange helmet rides a black and bright yellow snowmobile.
A snowmobile rider wearing an orange helmet rides a black and bright yellow snowmobile.
With more than 200 plus inches of snow every winter, the Keweenaw Peninsula is the perfect place to host a snowmobile design competition.

Michigan Technological University will host 23 teams for the 18th annual SAE International Clean Snowmobile Challenge March 5-10, 2018.

For the 16th year running, the Keweenaw Research Center at Michigan Tech is bringing talented student engineers to compete for the quietest, cleanest snowmobile. There are several events to this SAE International competition—from endurance runs to noise tests.

“With 23 teams competing it is always amazing to see 23 different solutions to the same question,” says Jay Meldrum, director of the Keweenaw Research Center. “How can we make snowmobiles clean and quiet and still fun to ride?  After all, they are recreational vehicles.”

Cleaner and Quieter

The teams are comprised of engineering students from all over the northern US and Canada, and they come to test and showcase their quieter and cleaner designs in the Keweenaw Peninsula, where the average snowfall totals reach more than 200 inches. The teams start with a standard modern snowmobile, then take them apart, modify and build a sled with reduced noise and emissions.

This year, there will be only two categories in the competition: internal combustion—gasoline and diesel utility. Internal combustion sleds are the most common, so their designs are important for recreation and other uses. Diesel utility sleds could never win a race if held to the same noise and emission levels, but they are tested for pulling heavy loads.

 The diesel utility class may be slower than recreational vehicles but they are designed to pull heavy loads. 

Laws passed in 2006 define emissions and noise standards for snowmobiles, which the students are challenged to surpass. With the chance to collaborate with industry experts, the educational opportunity has a real-world connection.

“For the past several years, Faurecia has enjoyed working with the innovators and outside-of-the-box thinkers of tomorrow," says Hadi Awada, president of Faurecia Clean Mobility North America. "The skills they develop and lessons they learn will extend far beyond this challenge.” 

Faurecia is one of the platinum-level sponsors of the Clean Snowmobile Challenge.

Endurance Run

The six-day competition starts on Monday March 5 and ends Saturday March 10 with an awards banquet to honor the winners of the many categories. The first day of the competition is dedicated to technical inspections, which make sure all of the teams comply with the rules--The rulebook has 66 pages and to mix things up, the rules change slightly every year. The main event on the second day is a 100-mile Endurance Run from the Keweenaw Research Center to Copper Harbor. The third day and fourth day include technical presentations, which will be done in the Keweenaw Research Center itself this year, along with noise measurements, emissions measurements and subjective handling evaluations, as well as a draw bar pull for diesel sleds. The fifth day continues with emissions testing, but is also used as a break for the students and the volunteers to enjoy what the Keweenaw has to offer-- skiing, snowshoeing and, of course, snowmobiling.

The final day’s events are open to the public, starting with an early morning cold-start test followed by lively acceleration and handling events. Saturday night, and the competition, concludes with a banquet where the week’s scores are tallied and rewarded.

A man raises an orange flag in front of a snowmobile rider waiting to start a race.

The acceleration event is one of the liveliest parts of the clean snowmobile challenge.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.