Snowdogs looking for Clean Snow win

Mar 12, 2004

The Kettering Snowdogs Clean Snowmobile Challenge team is headed north with a new engine, more power and less noise - and they're ready to ride.

The Snowdogs traded in their car engine for a standard snowmobile engine this year, and have headed over the Mackinac Bridge this week to test their new design in the fifth annual Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Clean Snowmobile Challenge at Michigan Technology University (MTU) in Houghton, Mich., March 15 through 20.

Kettering University's Clean Snowmobile team, the Snowdogs, is one of sixteen student teams from universities in the U.S. and Canada who will compete in the six-day event with snowmobiles modified to reduce noise and emissions levels. MTU is hosting the competition for the second consecutive year. 

The goal of the competition is to develop snowmobiles that are acceptable for use in environmentally sensitive areas. Snowmobiles entered in the program are required to run quietly and emit significantly less unburned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide than conventional snowmobiles.

This year the Kettering sled exchanges the Daihatsu car engine used in the last three competitions for a standard snowmobile engine that they have re-engineered to achieve weight and noise reduction and lower emissions.

The core team of student engineers includes Carl Block, Bad Axe senior, Nichole Carrick, Charlotte, Mich., senior, Jake Maurer, Ruth, Mich., senior, Dennis Warchuck, Ruth senior and Claude Pilger, Sun Prarie, Wis., graduate student. All four undergraduates are B-section students, meaning they are currently on work term and have been returning to campus nights and weekends to design and build their sled.

Their engine modifications have resulted in a 25 percent weight reduction from that of the Daihatsu, and a 123 percent increase in horsepower. "We took a stock snowmobile engine and decubed it," said Carrick. Decubing included having the engine block sleeved and custom pistons manufactured. 

In their written documentation for the competition, the team stated that "although there have been many modifications to the RX-1 sled, the overall stock performance has not been significantly affected. The newly revised sled now obtains more than 20 mpg and still has approximately 130 horsepower. These measurements are still possible even while overall noise and emissions have been reduced."

The decision to replace the Daihatsu engine with a stock RX1 snowmobile engine was driven in part by their choice of chassis. The team decided to use an RX1 snowmobile chassis based on its front and rear suspension travel, exhaust routing, engine bay compartment size and the overall aesthetics in relation to the sled.

Because the Daihatsu engine has a heavy cast iron block, limited availability to acquire replacement parts and the packaging into the RX-1 chassis, the team decided the best solution was to go with the RX-1 engine as well. 

In order to reduce engine emissions and to provide optimum mixture control for exhaust after treatment, the stock carburetor fuel delivery system was inadequate. For precise control and closed-loop operation, a fuel injection system had to be developed to accommodate the RX-1 intake system. Other modifications include electronic fuel control, catalytic converters and a customized exhaust.

This week at MTU, the team will face technical inspection, an endurance and fuel economy event in Copper Harbor, Mich., cold start, noise, braking and emissions testing. Other events include design presentations and static displays, as well as acceleration and handling competitions.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge is the Society of Automotive Engineers' newest collegiate design competition. Teams of engineering students from participating schools take a stock snowmobile and then re-engineer it to reduce emissions and noise while maintaining or improving performance.

In the past, most teams have succeeded by improving upon their previous year's technologies. Past competition have raised the bar high in terms of noise and emissions. The control sled, against which the contestants will be measured, will be a four-stroke Arctic Cat 660.

Because the standard is so high, any two-stroke snowmobile that meets or beats the emissions standards will receive a 50-point bonus.

The public will be invited to view the handling and acceleration events, held at the Keweenaw Research Center March 20.

Teams registered for the international competition include U.S. entries from Clarkson University (Potsdam, NY), Colorado State University (Fort Collins), Idaho State University (Pocatello), Kettering University (Flint, MI), MTU, Minnesota State University (Mankato), Montana Tech (Butte), SUNY-Buffalo, University of Maine (Orono), University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Platteville and last year's winner, University of Idaho (Moscow). Canadian entries include, Ecole De Technologies Superieure (Montreal, Quebec), McGill University (Montreal, Quebec), University of Alberta (Edmonton, Alberta), and the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario).