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Michigan Technological University

SAE: Supermileage Systems Enterprise Team

Students at Michigan Technological University (MTU) have been participating in the SAE Supermileage® competition since 2007. Teams must design, engineer, and fabricate a single-person fuel-efficient vehicle with a single cylinder engine.

The MTU team's first-year entry was unorthodox; they submitted a design report, but no vehicle. This unusual approach enabled them to gain valuable information about the competition, the technical inspection process, and the benchmarks set by other teams. Their first vehicle, for the 2008 competition, achieved 456 MPG and earned 9th place among 13 teams. After significant design changes and improvements in 2009, the team achieved 1140 MPG, placing 2nd overall and earning the award for best design.

For the 2010 competition the team built a new vehicle from the ground up, but technical difficulties prevented the completion of a fuel-economy run at competition. The team successfully addressed key reliability issues with this vehicle and placed 10th in 2011 with 566 mpg. Key areas included increased dynamometer testing to quantify brake specific fuel consumption on a dynamometer controlled by MATLAB code.

In 2012, the team's aggressive goals left little time for testing, forcing a decision to forgo competition. In 2013, the team spent considerable time testing rolling resistance and drag coefficient. Additionally, the team implemented a lean (lambda>1) fuel map for the electronic fuel injection while also implementing electronic ignition control. At the 2013 competition, Michigan Tech placed 6th with 758 mpg. In 2014-15, the team has started a brand new vehicle which will take two years to design and build. Key goals are 15-20% weight reduction, improved aerodynamics, and conversion to a new Briggs and Stratton engine platform.

Images courtesy of Dan Mizell

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Team Facts

  • Four top 10 finishes at SAE Supermileage, including 2nd place in 2009
  • Uses MATLAB and Simulink to create comprehensive vehicle models that inform driving strategy and predict fuel economy
  • Runs transmission simulations to test and optimize various transmission configurations and select gear ratios and shift points