Supermileage team aims to showcase new vehicle



Mitchell Lafrance

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Supermileage team is dedicated to pushing the limits of fuel efficiency in an internal combustion engine.

The team is housed in the Advanced Machinery Systems Laboratory (AMSL) where they design a single-seat vehicle that is powered by a one-cylinder Briggs & Stratton engine.

The main design aspect of the car is centered around an aerodynamic shape that allows the team to achieve low drag coefficients and maximize fuel efficiency.

Dubbed “Baumgartner,” their vehicle for the 2018 season will be designed with carbon fiber and other lightweight components to reduce the total weight while still being designed to safely house the driver of the car.

Baumgartner is the second vehicle the team has produced, and they plan to also work with an outside company to develop a chassis for the 2019 competition.

“We’ve been in talks with certain companies in getting a partial chassis built for us,” said Chris Becklund, technical director for the team. “It would be delivered to us, and we would still handle the body and the drivetrain.”  

The body for the 2019 car would be comprised of carbon fiber to help reduce the weight of the overall vehicle. While final plans for that car are being decided, project director Tanner Stumm said that the main focus is on Baumgartner.

“That car is in the future, and we’ve been trying to focus on Baumgartner right now,” Stumm said. “Between this car [Baumgartner] and last year’s car, we have a lot on our hands.”

The competition takes place across June 7 and 8, 2018 at a track in Marshall, Michigan where approximately 30 teams from around the world compete to achieve the highest mileage out of their car. 

Becklund stated that their team got around 800 mpg, but said that even that number is on the lower end.

“Some teams were getting over 4,000 mpg. It’s pretty crazy what some of the other teams are capable of,” Becklund said.

The competition is run on a road course, and before the cars begin their runs, the fuel is weighed from each team. After running a number of laps, the fuel is then weighed again and mpg is calculated from there.

One of the new additions to the car will be an improved steering system to allow the driver to more easily direct the car, Stumm said.

“Last year’s car had a steering system that was adopted kind of at the last minute, and wasn’t widely agreed on by the team,” Stumm said. “This year’s car will have a dumbed-down version of what you might see on a normal passenger car, kind of a rack and pinion style steering system.”

A rack and pinion system allows for rotational motion, like that of turning a wheel, to be converted to linear motion that moves the wheels on a car from side to side.

The club is relatively new to SAE, having only joined about four years ago. Stumm went on to explain a little on how last year’s car was built.

“This one [2017 car] is very out there, in terms of shape and style,” Stumm said. “Everyone had an attitude of ‘let’s just try this and see what happens.’ The club started, from what I understand, in a dorm with a few guys just messing around and eventually joining SAE.”

The team is looking forward to building Baumgartner for this season’s upcoming competition and being able to compete with some of the best teams across the world.