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Idaho's Clean Snowmobile Team

Going for the Green: Clean Snowmobile Challenge

Clean Snowmobile Challenge team heads to Michigan

By Steven Nelson

Clean, quiet and eco-friendly are not words that usually describe snowmobiles. The University of Idaho Clean Snowmobile Challenge team is working to change that.

The CSC team in the College of Engineering is heading to Michigan to compete with their 2009 Rev XP Ski-doo sled that has been undergoing modifications and testing for the last year. The Idaho team is an old hand at the annual SAE CSC hosted by Michigan Tech.

“A cleaner, quieter, more fuel efficient and less polluting sled that does not sacrifice performance,” says Josh Bartlow, University of Idaho sophomore from Nampa and CSC team member, describing the goal of the challenge.

Bartlow joined the team as a freshman, and has enjoyed the hands-on learning and research opportunities afforded to undergraduates through the CSC.

The design competition began in 2000 in response to new National Park Service rules that would severely limit or ban snowmobile use in National Parks. The University of Idaho team won the challenge in 2002, 2003 and 2007 and since then has ranked in the top three annually.

“A lot of teams are looking at 4-stroke and even diesel powered sleds, but people want the power they get from a 2-stroke engine. That’s why we use a 2-stroke,” says Bartlow.

The team looks at a wide variety of modifications to the sled and not all of them yield results. Changing the drive system from a chain drive to belt drive took time and effort for no improvement. Worse, it made a high-pitch whine, so it was back to the drawing board.

“I would describe our snowmobile this year as a clean quiet snowmobile for the masses. It still has the high performance characteristics that the market demands, yet meets EPA and hopefully National Park Standards,” says Alex Fuhrman, Idaho CSC co-captain from Greenacres, Wash.

The single biggest improvement in this year's sled, according to Fuhrman, was the fabrication and installation of a new direct fuel injection head. The installation of the new head reduced exhaust emissions by 20 percent, bringing the sled within reach of EPA standards. With the addition of an inline catalytic converter and engine tuning, it is hoped the sled will meet the more stringent standards set by the National Park Service.

One of the benefits of being on the team is weekend testing at Elk River. Team members take the sled out to test for performance and handling, and tear it down again on Mondays to make modifications and adjustments.

The 14-member Idaho CSC team will compete in Michigan this month, and Fuhrman is looking at the competition.

“The teams to beat are University of Wisconsin Madison, Michigan Tech and a wild card this year, University of New York Buffalo,” says Fuhrman.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge takes place March 7-12 at Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center.

The team receives sponsorship from the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology; NIATT is committed to preparing students to be leaders in the design, development and operation of complex transportation systems.

SAE International’s Clean Snowmobile Challenge is an engineering design competition that challenges engineering students to reengineer an existing snowmobile to reduce emissions and noise. Their modified snowmobiles compete in a variety of events including emissions, noise, fuel economy/endurance, acceleration, handling, static display, cold start and design.