Clean Snowmobile Challenge wraps up

HOUGHTON – Jay Meldrum is pleased so many teams come to the Houghton area from so far away to take part in the Clean Snowmobile Challenge each year.

“It’s always amazing when I look at a map and see how far people come,” said Meldrum, director of the Michigan Technological University Keweenaw Research Center and organizer of the event.

Meldrum hosted the CSC awards dinner in the Tech Memorial Union Building Saturday evening.

Teams came from Alaska, Maine and Quebec, Canada to take part in the 14th annual Clean Snowmobile Challenge, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers. This is the 11th year the event has taken place at Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center near the Houghton County Memorial Airport.

The winner of the internal combustion category was the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the winner of the zero emissions, or electric, category was McGill University of Montreal, Canada.

Although most of the competitors were in the internal combustion engine category, Meldrum said this year there were seven teams registered in the electric competition, but only two competed.

“That particular category is growing,” he said.

Meldrum read a letter from an Austrian team, which couldn’t make it to this year’s CSC due to cost restraints. That team is hoping to conduct an electric snowmobile challenge in Austria in the near future.

In an interview this morning, Meldrum said electric snowmobiles will have a special niche use for scientific expeditions to the North Pole, which will affect the winners in the CSC zero emissions, or electric category participants.

“The winner gets to go there,” he said.

Electric machines will have a place at outdoor resorts, also Meldrum said. They probably won’t make much of a dent in the consumer market, because they can only travel about 20 miles before having to be recharged.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge started in 2000 in Yellowstone National Park, Meldrum said. In 2003, it moved to the KRC.

“We have a 500-acre test course,” he said.

Meldrum said the purpose of the event is to create a clean and quiet snowmobile, and if teams come to the event with machines not able to meet that challenge, they’re penalized.

“If they aren’t cleaner than the sleds on the road, they don’t get a score,” he said.

Coming up for future competitions, Meldrum said there will be new fuels, such as butanol, which is made from corn waste such as stalks and leaves.

“The competition will live on,” he said. “We’ll find different challenges for the students.”