Cleaner, Quieter Snowmobile Goal Of U.P. Competition

Mar 7, 2018

A photo from the 2017 event
Credit Peter Jensen

The Keweenau Research Center at Michigan Tech in Houghton this week is hosting the annual SAE(Society of Automotive Engineers) "Clean Snowmobile Challenge", a U.S. collegiate challenge each year for engineering departments to build a more environmentally friendly winter recreation vehicle.

Peter Jensen is a Sugar Camp resident who judges the competition. He says in the early 2000's, there was a legal effort to close access to the national parks by snowmobiles because of the emissions and noise and how it disrupted wildlife...

" response to that, rather than lawsuits being passed back and forth, the group got together and put together this challenge to demonstrate cleaner and quieter technology for snowmobiles...."

Jensen says this year the pursuit of the all-electric snowmobile was dropped which proved to be too much of a challenge for the students, but other technology has emerged...

"...this year we see a lot more diesels than we have in the past. The innovation there is the really advanced technologies we see on automobiles showing up on the diesel engine. They're upping the ante and bringing technology that is going to be in the theme of clean and quiet...."

Jensen says there are 8 diesel categories and 16 gasoline entrants, which is a record number of competitors. Schools from as far away as Maryland are attending...

"...this competition is a perfect example of an environmental group and the government who controls the national parks getting together and providing a constructive solution to an issue like this rather than slugging it out in court...."

He says several innovations brought forward by the students over the years have made it into consumer model snowmobiles. He says those environmental innovations have made the sport more acceptable in the tourism-dependent Northwoods and other places.