Freudenberg-NOK's Custom Crankshaft Seals Help Brigham Young Roll to SAE Supermileage® Victories

Company’s low friction, Energy Saving Seals reduced friction on race course

PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Earlier this month, a team of enterprising students from Brigham Young University achieved a fuel economy of 1,244 miles out of a single gallon of fuel. The team achieved these remarkable results, in part, by installing energy saving seals from Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies into the engine of their single passenger car.

Freudenberg-NOK’s Energy Saving Seals (ESS), supplied to the team by the company as part of its sponsorship of the entire SAE Supermileage® competition, helped insure that Brigham Young University took first place for Endurance in the competition and second place, overall, for best fuel economy in this year’s event. For a car no bigger than a kitchen table – and one that sits a whole lot lower to the ground – the Brigham Young results are impressive, said Dr. Luis Lorenzo, senior vice president, Technology and Innovation, Freudenberg-NOK.

“This is the third year that Freudenberg-NOK has elected to support college teams entering SAE International’s Supermileage Competition,” Lorenzo said. “We see terrific synergies between this program and the innovations we are developing for our customers in the area of friction reduction and fuel economy.

“The Brigham Young team’s performance helps confirm our data that ESS components will help customers achieve fuel savings and lower vehicle emissions when they are installed in real-life vehicle powertrains. In fact, if all of the engine, transmission, axle and bearing seals on all light vehicles on the road today were replaced with low friction seals, it would save about 2 billion gallons of total fuel annually,” Lorenzo pointed out.

Brigham Young was one of 23 international collegiate teams to compete in the SAE Supermileage competition. The competition requires teams of students to produce a single driver, internal combustion engine-driven fuel efficient vehicle that can be driven six laps around a specified race course. Teams are awarded points based on a combination of the miles per gallon they achieve and their vehicle design. Fuel tanks are weighed before and after the track run to see how much fuel is consumed, but teams are allowed as many attempts as they would like, making tweaks to their vehicles after each run.

The competition is held annually at the Eaton Corporation proving grounds located in Marshall, Mich. Vehicles are powered by a small four-cycle engine provided by Briggs Stratton and teams can modify the engines to improve fuel efficiency in any way they can imagine, which is where Freudenberg-NOK entered the picture.

Three years ago, Freudenberg-NOK realized the SAE Supermileage competition not only mirrored the corporate vision and objectives of the organization – to provide custom engineered sealing solutions to global customers that helped them achieve better quality, efficiency and economy with their powertrains – but also offered a unique opportunity to meet with some of the best and brightest engineering and design students working and studying today.

The company not only decided to become a Gold Sponsor of the annual SAE Supermileage event, but also designed, tooled and produced custom ESS seals for the crankshaft of the four-cycle engine. These seals, which were offered to all participating teams in the competition, reduce friction by 57 percent – a significant improvement considering the teams are looking to save fuel in any way possible.

Student efforts to pull dramatic fuel economy out of a tiny powertrain are not unlike the challenges facing most vehicle manufacturers today. Challenges like smaller, lighter vehicles, multiple gears and start-stop technology are pushing vehicle manufacturers to look for new ways to reduce friction and improve the fuel efficiency of their engines and transmissions.

“We’re constantly pursuing technologies that increase efficiency, so a competition in which we can help students squeeze every mile per gallon possible out of their vehicle is exciting,” said Mike Rowe, strategic product development manager, Freudenberg-NOK. “We can also use the development of these seals as a potential prototype for future low-torque range products.”

“This challenge continues to offer us a chance to get involved with new engineering students and new ideas,” Rowe said. “This year it may also provide us with a real-world setting in which to test a new line of ESS products. That’s a win for the students, a win for SAE International and a win for our company too.”

In addition to winning first place for Endurance and second place, overall for fuel economy, Brigham Young also won Best Design Execution in the 2015 competition.

About Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies

Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies is the Americas joint venture between Freudenberg and Co. in Germany and NOK Corp. in Japan. Freudenberg-NOK is a leading producer of advanced sealing technologies for a variety of markets including: aerospace; agriculture; appliance; automotive; construction; diesel engine; energy; food and beverage; heavy industry; and pharmaceutical. Founded in 1989 under the legal name Freudenberg-NOK General Partnership, Freudenberg-NOK is headquartered in Plymouth, Mich. and operates more than 20 facilities. For additional information, please visit

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