Penn State Erie team wins international 'supermileage' competition

A lightweight, single-seat test car designed and built by students at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, won the Society of Automotive Engineers' 2012 International Supermileage Challenge on June 8. Team members returned with a trophy and a $1,400 check.

The team, which started work on the car in December, using a lawn mower engine, aced the design phase of the two-day competition. The car also performed well on the track, recording a test run that got 1,485 miles out of a single gallon of gas.

Team member Tina Raeke, of Erie, drove that lap, keeping the 91-pound car to an average speed of 15.03 mph. Any faster, and the car would have been less efficient.

Three other test runs earned the team mileage. But on three others, the car broke down: The drive belt fell off, and the ignition circuit failed.

Technical problems are common at the competition, which is held on the Eaton Corporation's Marshall Proving Grounds in Michigan. Several registered teams were unable to compete.

A team from Brigham Young University, in Utah, placed second with a 1,135-mpg car. A team from Universite Laval, in Quebec City, placed third with a 1,051-mpg car.

The Penn State Behrend team placed fifth at the competition in 2011. That car got 1,011 mpg. The 2010 team placed 10th, with 777 mpg.

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Last Updated June 26, 2012