Supermileage team scores third-place finish at SAE

The NIU Supermileage team is celebrating a third-place overall finish and its best-ever combined score after last weekend’s SAE Supermileage competition in Marshall, Mich.
In the competition, teams of engineering students design and build single-occupant, ultra fuel-efficient vehicles. The teams compete for the best design, highest fuel economy and greatest vehicle endurance.
The NIU vehicle recorded a jaw-dropping 1,741 miles per gallon – an improvement of more than 600 miles per gallon over when it placed sixth in the Shell Eco-Marathon in April.
“At Shell, we had some issues with rolling resistance, so we focused heavily on fixing that and on just getting outside and running the car,” team president Josh Helsper said. “We focused on working out any kinks we might have before we got to competition.”
The preparation paid off. In addition to placing third overall, the NIU team placed fourth in design and first in endurance, for a best-ever combined score of 2,126. Helsper said the vehicle earned the Endurance Award by running a total of 60 miles over six successful runs with no breakdowns. The next-best team, which won the overall competition, completed four runs and broke down once.
“Even though our car had lower fuel economy than theirs, it was more reliable,” Helsper said. “It felt very good to get that award.”
Helsper, who was also on last year’s team, said this year’s competitions went unusually smoothly, a fact he attributes to the team’s big-picture vision. Members pored over the rulebook to ensure they would have no problems during technical inspection and arrived early so they could get inspection out of the way and get out on the track for practice runs.
With six Top 3 finishes in the last eight years, the team’s success has become a point of pride for the NIU College of Engineering and Engineering Technology, acting associate dean Shanthi Muthuswamy said.

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“The Supermileage team has consistently performed well, and as always we are proud of their team effort, determination and hard work,” she said.

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