Shocking Science: UAF engineers create award winning electric snowmachine

Ian Larsen/Sun Star Reporter
April 10, 2012

During a sunny day in Fairbanks, a team member tests out the speed of the electric snow machine that was built by a group of UAF students and mentors. Photo provided by Isaac Thompson.

Despite the cold March weather, the UAF ME Clean Snowmachine Team brought the heat at the Society of Automobile Engineers’ “Zero Emission” Snowmachine competition this year.

The competition was held in Michigan, and consisted of four teams: Michigan Tech, South Dakota School of Mines and Tech, UAF and McGill University.

The team consisted of Christin Davis, Isaac Thompson, Ben Neubauer, Karlin Swearingen, Russell Carroll, Craig McKenzie, Amanda Mertes, Adam Burnett and advisor Michael Golub.

The team won nine out of 12 events and took first place in the overall competition.

“It took us a year to make the machine,” Thompson said. “Its MSRP is valued at about $17,000.”

The team was disqualified from the distance event due to an engine mishap.

“During the noise competition the throttle was held wide open,” Thompson said. “Since the rev limiter is on a one second delay it can be bypassed by holding the throttle open. So the engine kept revving up and it shorted out.”

The team was able to ship a spare motor overnight to the competition.

The team was then disqualified from the distance event because of the newly replaced engine.

The snowmachine has a peak horsepower of one hundred, can reach a top speed of 70 miles an hour, and weighs 580 pounds.

“A regular snowmachine weighs around 540 pounds,” Neubauer said. “With a little more time we can get our machine there.”

“With the battery at three quarter of a charge it went sixteen miles, It could easily get to twenty with a full charge,” Thompson said.

Even with all this power, the machine has a zero emission rate, makes little to no noise and runs off nothing but battery power.

“You have to be careful when you’re riding the snowmachine, it has more power then you think,” Swearingen said. “One time I was driving it around, I pushed on the throttle too fast and nearly flipped it.”

Because of the team’s sweeping victory, the National Science Foundation asked the team to bring the snowmachine to Greenland for emission research. The team and the electric snowmachine will help researchers come up with new ways to efficiently travel between research stations without fear of emissions ruining data at the stations.

Events Won

  • MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price)
    The cost effectiveness of the machine
  • Weight
    The total weight of the snowmachine
  • Oral Presentation
    Presentation to the judges about how the machine was made and the parts used
  • Draw Bar Pull – 592 pounds
    Demonstrating how much weight the machine could pull
  • Cold Start
    Using the snowmachine in colder climates requires it to be able to start in freezing temperatures
  • Schematic Design
    The plans used to build the machine
  • Noise Test
    Machine was driven at 15 MPH to determine noise levels

“If we get the money to do this again,” Thompson said. “We can build an even better one, maybe we could even try it out at Arctic Man, if someone was brave enough to drive it.”


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