UAF puts car engine in snowmachine

Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has mounted a small car engine, complete with catalytic converter, in a snowmachine to compete against clean snowmobile designs from engineering students at 15 other universities.

It's a refined version of the machine the students entered last year in the Clean Snowmobile Challenge, held annually in Jackson, Wyo. The competition, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, is intended to promote development of practical low-emission snowmachines.

The UAF students started with a standard Arctic Cat machine, replacing the 600 cubic centimeter two-stroke engine with a 953 cubic centimeter four-stroke from a Chevy Sprint car.

''It's the cleanest car engine out there,'' said team captain Dale Hahn, a mechanical engineering student.

But despite the engine's lightweight aluminum construction, the UAF snowmachine weighs about 100 pounds more than the standard Arctic Cat.

The extra weight doesn't hurt handling much, Hahn said.

''It feels just as strong as any 600,'' he said.

The machine uses an automotive muffler and catalytic converter to reduce noise along with pollution. Hahn says it's as quiet as a car.

The UAF team has plans for improving the machine, but money is tight. The project has cost about $8,000, Hahn said, $2,500 from the university. More than $5,000 was donated by the Fairbanks Snow Travelers and other local snowmachine-related groups.

The UAF team entered the machine in last year's competition, but missed the emissions testing because of travel problems. The design did rank third in acceleration.

''We were really rushed last year,'' Hahn said. ''When we put it on the plane for Wyoming it wasn't running yet.''

Hahn and his four teammates have been perfecting the design since. They hope to replace the heavy automobile flywheel with a lighter one, and are looking at changes in the cooling system.

''I think we're going to do very well this year,'' he said.

The Clean Snowmobile Challenge awards prizes for the top five designs, with $4,000 for first place. Top performers in seven categories get $1,500 each. All prize money is earmarked for future projects.

The competition, which starts March 23, is held at the same time as the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb. The two events attract snowmachine enthusiasts, professional riders and manufacturers.

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