Given a 3.5-horsepower lawn mower engine to work with, a BYU team placed second in its first fuel-efficiency competition with a vehicle that reached a whopping 1,135 miles per gallon. The seven mechanical engineering students, coached by professor W. Jerry Bowman (BS ’77), also won Best Newcomer Performance at the SAE International Supermileage Competition.
Eric Hardester (BS ’12) (pictured) guided the vehicle, just big enough for the engine and the driver, around the 9.6-mile Eaton Proving Grounds track in Marshall, Mich. “You want to take it as slow as possible to reduce the air drag,” he says. Maintaining the required average 15 mph for six laps, Hardester ran the engine for three-second spurts between periods of coasting. “We worked really hard to make the car roll a long distance without power,” he says. “You can coast forever.”