Winter recreation in the Northwoods includes a large number of snowmobiles driving along groomed trails. It's vital for the tourist economy. A competition held at Michigan Tech University in Houghton this week is designed to lessen environmental impacts.
Students reengineer a stock snowmobile to reduce emissions and noise while increasing fuel economy while not hurting performance. University teams from the the U.S. and other countries compete. The Society of Automotive Engineers Clean Snowmobile Challenge also includes a zero-emissions category for battery-powered sleds used in a scientific mission along with standard gasoline machines. Another category employs a diesel engine for snowmobiles used in a more utility work profile. A record 25 teams entered this year.
Peter Jensen is a technical judge for the competition at the Keweenaw Research Center.
"....often times we will see some of the technology that comes to competition, whether mature or immature, is refined by the manufacturers and then brought out in subsequent model year snowmobiles. One of the things we see is exhaust noise. The manufacturers will recognize snowmobiles can be quiet from an exhaust perspective and still provide adequate performance..."
The challenge started 17 years ago to get snowmobiles within environmental limits to be used in Yellowstone National Park and the challenge has been in the U.P. for 14 years.
A link to the competition is here.