Electrathon Racing in Michigan

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Jeffrey F. Dailey

©1994 Jeffrey F. Dailey

The West coast is the undisputed hotbed of Electrathon racing in the USA, through the efforts of Electrathon America, Clean Air Revival, and other groups. Soon that distinction will be challenged by a new kid on the block: the EVT.

EVT is short for the Electric Vehicle Technology program at Jordan College Energy Institute (JEI) in Michigan. After working with events such as the 1990 GM Sunrayce (Florida to Michigan) and the Ford Hybrid Electric Vehicle Challenge, JEI formed the 1994 Michigan High School Electrathon competition. A year after its conception, most of the 23 participating high schools scattered throughout Michigan have working vehicles that they are refining for the racing debut on June 11, 1994.

The Project Begins

In the spring of 1993, JEI drafted a letter announcing the competition and mailed it to all Michigan high schools. Twenty-nine schools responded to the challenge and were sent Electrathon America rules.

In October 1993, the registrants converged for a workshop. JEI personnel or outside consultants conducted presentations on organization, safety, construction, fundraising, and materials sources. The teams also received some instruction on writing the mandatory progress reports. Car numbers were assigned and three JEI representatives were designated for each team to shepherd them through any difficulties. Each team was well aware that the next time they would all meet was in competition.

A hotline was set up for voice and FAX. Since academics were a part of the competition, progress reports were required. One incentive to excel in the reports is grading (scoring) them. These scores will be used to establish the starting positions for the race. The reports also remind schools that time is fleeting.

JEI has sent out several newsletters to announce race-related facts and serve as further encouragement to teams. These also answer frequently-asked questions from the hotline, and advice that seems to be in order. All questions are treated as confidential. Any specific question that might reveal a technique or strategy is not publicized without permission of the originators.

Since JEI has no previous Electrathon experience to draw upon, it purchased a race car from Clark Beaseley. Consumer's Power, a large Michigan utility, purchased this vehicle and donated it to the school to help with publicity. The car's main benefit, though, has been the excitement generated when brought to high schools and displayed at student assemblies.

An enterprise of this magnitude has generated many challenges. Financial sponsorship is slowly growing. The workload on student, faculty, and staff at JEI has been taxed. More help from outside the college would be appreciated. (Ed: HP readers, take note. A helping hand, a donation, or sponsorship are ways you can become a part of history.)

The Upcoming Race Day

A track outside of Grand Rapids will host the Electrathon event on June 11th. The vehicles will compete on a half mile paved and banked oval track, under the watchful eye of Clark Beaseley. The site has seating capacity for 10,000 people and a fairgrounds to attract vendors and displays, and room for inspections and repairs. The Electrathon will run a daytime event on the same date as a nighttime stock car race, so that the track's single event insurance will cover both. Since spectators must traverse a large area between the parking lot and bleachers, owners of electric cars and trucks will be invited to display their vehicles to the general public in this area. Immediately prior to the Electrathon event, the display vehicles will form a parade for a turn around the track.

In the traditional style of Electrathon racing, the race will be one hour long, with laps counted, and the vehicles with the greatest distances declared the winners. All prize monies are awarded to the schools' scholarship funds, with $5000 for first place, $3000 for second, and $2000 for third.

About Jordan Institute

The Associate Degree in Electric Vehicle Technology (EVT) program at JEI resulted from the college's commitment to using renewable energy to keep our planet habitable. Other programs emphasize the use of solar energy for heating, PV, wind, hydro, and biomass. The program teaches the maintenance of the millions of EVs already in use. This is a two year program for a beginning student. Students with a year of college may complete the EVT program in one year.

The course work in the EVT program ties in with other programs by being as generic as possible. Basic Electricity and Controls classes are in demand for most students. Other popular classes are Motors and

Below: Dan Parks show off his old and new composite Electrathon bodies. With the world record at a bit more than 35 miles in one hour, competitive vehicles must be very slippery as they move through the air.

Electrathon America

Generators, Inverters and Battery Chargers, and Energy Storage.

There are seven Jordan College campuses throughout Michigan, currently in candidacy status for North Central Accreditation. JEI is the only campus to offer energy-related courses, and confer baccalaureate degrees. Typical enrollment is 100-130 students. Each student gets individual attention due to the small student-to-teacher ratio.

Electrathon is only one of many programs Jordan College would like to sponsor. Plans are already underway for a 1995 competition! All Michigan High Schools are encouraged to arrange to compete with high schools in neighboring areas, or to travel outside the state to other events across the country.


Jeff Dailey, 17206 SR 1, Spencerville, IN 46788 • 219-627-6222

Jordan Energy Institute, 155 Seven Mile Road, Comstock Park, Ml 49321 • 800-968-3955

BRASCH LABS camera ready 3.65 inches wide 4.5 inches high black and white

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