Minnesota super mileage team brings home national award in E100 category

Alden-Conger High School, which has fielded super mileage vehicles in competition for almost two decades, won second place in the E100 category at the recent Shell Eco Marathon national super mileage contest. They competed against a large field, mostly college and university teams.

The winning vehicle is known as “Green Machine” sports the trademark John Deere green color and John Deere logo. Green Machine has three wheels; two front wheels made from 20-inch wheelchair wheels and a rear 20-inch bike wheel. The team achieved an amazing 759 miles per gallon.

The team captain, Tyler Adix was quoted in the local newspaper: “I wasn’t expecting to do this good, especially going up against really big universities that have a lot of money that they can put into their cars, coming from a little town and a little school I wasn’t expecting to do as good as we did, so it was a really fun surprise to end up getting second.”

Dave Bosma, a physics and chemistry teacher at Alden Conger High School has advised the team since 2000.

“The team is very excited about the victory and we have a lot of energy going into the upcoming Super-Mileage Challenge–if we put everything into it we have a real chance of victory in three categories there,” said Bosma.

Super Mileage Challenge is organized by Minnesota Technical Education Association and will run this year May 15-17. Minnesota Corn Growers Association serves as a major sponsor of the competition, providing major support, including the prize in the E85 category.

Alden-Conger’s ambitions at Super Mileage are not idle boasts, considering that the team holds several current state records, including 721 miles per gallon for an E85 vehicle.

“When you see how we did in Houston, we feel certain we can set a new ethanol vehicle record at the Super Mileage Challenge,” said Bosma. “Especially when you consider that the day before the Eco-Marathon we had to pull out the fuel injection system, which wasn’t working, and replace it with a carburetor system. For SMC we should have our fuel injector back in, and in working order.”

Bosma said Adix, who learned mechanics and fabrication growing up on a farm and doing welding and engine repair on farm equipment, handled the emergency replacement of the fuel system, with the able assistance of Bosma and a dozen team-mates. Adix plans to go to school for agriculture at the University of South Dakota.

The other team leader, senior Mike Reyerson, plans to go to Iowa State University to study engineering.

“Mike brings experiences he’s gotten from racing go-carts,” said Bosma. “That driving skill carries over to driving these cars. He really knows when these cars are working, when to push them and how to maximize performance. The smart operation of the vehicle can make a 100 miles per gallon difference.”

One of the emphases of these competitions is letting the students respond to the challenges that arise during these endurance-testing races. The Alden-Conger team includes students from grades seven through 12, which has proved to be another fundamental strength versus their competitors. By the time team members reach their senior year they often have four or five years of competition under their belts.

Bosma noted that one of the other keys to the amazing performance of super mileage vehicles, generally, is the use of light-weight materials to build the vehicles.

“We have $800 worth of ceramic bearings and parts in the vehicle,” said Bosma. “We could make passenger vehicles that could easily achieve 100 miles per gallon, but the cost for the parts would mean you’d pay $100,000 for a vehicle like that.”

He predicts that sustained four-dollar-plus priced gasoline will increase the interest in lightweight vehicle fabrication. Asked about the safety factor and whether heavier vehicles don’t provide more safety, Bosma referred to testing that has shown tubular carbon parts, which weight about a fifth of what steel parts weigh, can be constructed to be stronger than steel.

“We were wishing on our way back from Houston, hauling our super mileage vehicles, that we could get even half that performance, instead of the nine or ten miles per gallon we were getting. It’s only a matter of time before the big automobile makers commercialize some of the aspects of super mileage vehicles and really boost everyone’s fuel efficiency.”

Fuel efficiency, combined with the use of renewable fuel sources like corn-based ethanol, would be a very powerful force in America’s movement towards energy independence and the economic security and environmental benefit that will bring.

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