AC Knights make a big splash for renewable energy at ultralight competition

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

The Shell Eco-Marathon(R) Challenge in Houston is like the Olympics of student ultralight vehicle competitions, and out of the scores of teams, the Alden-Conger High school team (in south central Minnesota), called the Knights, won first place in the biodiesel category with a calculated fuel efficiency of 674 miles per gallon. The Knight’s E100 car–running pure ethanol fuel just like the Indy500 racers–placed second with an incredible 1,020 miles per gallon. It was the second year in a row that they garnered the silver in the E100 competition.

“It’s a very good program. It’s lots of fun,” said Jacob Sorensen, a junior now in his second year participating in the AC Knight’s supermileage teams. This year he served as team captain for the E100 vehicle, and served as driver in the competition. Sorensen said, “There’s never a dull moment, you’re always doing something, fixing something, working with your buddies. It takes a lot of initiative. What I love about it is you get a little taste of everything-math, chemistry, aerodynamics, engineering, fabricating–I think I’ll get to college and know what like and it will really help me hit the ground running. We have great advisors and sponsors helping us do this event every year.”

The biodiesel vehicle employs a chrome-moly frame to accommodate the incredible torque offered by a diesel engine. Chrome moly is both stronger and lighter than steel an. Team manager Drew Folie and driver Tommy Geesman led the biodiesel team to victory.

Alden-Conger will go on to compete in the MTEEA Supermileage Challenge that will take place Monday and Tuesday, May 14 and 15, at the Brainerd International Speedway. It will swap out the E100 engine in favor a Briggs and Stratton engine designed specifically for E85–the high ethanol fuel blend available at over 350 fueling stations across the state, made specifically for the growing number of Detroit-made cars, SUVs and light trucks with flexible fuel engine systems.

Alden-Conger has fielded ultra-light vehicles there for the past thirteen years, in a program headed by high school chemistry teacher Dave Bosma. The teams received ample assistance from advisers Jerry Reyerson, James Sorensen, Bob Korman, Curt Helland at the Houston competition.

More information about the Supermileage Challenge can be found at http://www.mtea.net/supermileage/smhome.htm

Sorensen estimated that he and many other team members each put about 150 to 200 hours into getting ready for the ultralight vehicle competitions over the course of the year.

Sorensen, along with teammate Holly Reinke are featured in a video created by Shell during the first day of the competition. Also interviewed is Semira Kern from Granite Falls High School’s team, Shop Girls, who had a very good showing in the biodiesel competition. You can view the video at:

http://www.shell.com/home/content/ecomarathon/americas/media/2012/03292012_day-one.html

Another star of the video is the Knight’s E100 vehicle, shown in all its glory.

“The shell is clear lexon,” said Sorensen. “It’s a really hard, impact resistant plastic that’s very aerodynamic. We use an aluminum frame. One of the cool things about the vehicle is you can see right through into where the driver sits and the engine, transmission and all the mechanicals in the car. It’s 28 inches off the ground, eight feet long, 36-inches at wide at its widest. Our design replicates the raindrop–nature’s most aerodynamic shape—wide in front with two wheels and tapering to one wheel in the back. Our chemistry teacher, Dave Bosma, came up with the design. This is his 13th year. He’s great at getting the kids involved, and keeping them together on the mission.”

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