Thursday, June 13, 2024
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American Photo voltaic Problem at MIT » Pupil Lounge

In immediately’s submit, Sam Reinsel joins us to speak in regards to the MIT Photo voltaic Electrical Automobile workforce. Over to you, Sam..
As we speak’s weblog is a observe up on a submit I made final 12 months on the American photo voltaic problem. After that submit I bought an opportunity to go to the MIT Photo voltaic Electrical Automobile workforce (SEVT) at their lab in Cambridge. In case you aren’t acquainted with photo voltaic automobile racing, it’s a captivating engineering problem taken on by universities all over the world. Groups should construct their automobiles to strict guidelines that restrict the realm of photo voltaic panels out there to them (which additionally limits how a lot vitality they’ll seize in consequence) earlier than they race throughout real-world roads on a 1000+ mile roadtrip over just a few days. In contrast to regular electrical automobiles, photo voltaic automobiles are solely being allowed to make use of vitality they seize from the solar to maintain them throughout the race.

In ASC 2021, the MIT workforce received 1st within the Single occupant class, driving 1108.6 miles with a mean velocity of 34.7 MPH. With two again to again competitors years in 2021 and 2022, their workforce is targeted on optimizing their 2021 automobile to hold their success ahead.

Make it or Brake it

In chatting with the workforce throughout my go to I bought an opportunity to study alot about their workforce, together with the truth that most of their workforce are 1st and 2nd 12 months college students. We additionally bought to speak about how they use MATLAB and Simulink on their workforce, and so they had 2 actually good examples of how they method fixing engineering challenges with MATLAB.


The first job they’re for the 2022 occasion concerned analyzing their braking system. Whereas photo voltaic automobiles usually don’t want a number of braking energy as a result of their low weight, every thing on the automobile is engineered to be as mild and small as it may possibly. For the MIT workforce, this contains solely having motor energy on 1 of their 4 wheels, however their mechanical brakes want to have the ability to reliably cease the automobile on their very own, with none regenerative braking help. Their automobile required a major quantity of driver effort on the brakes to fulfill competitors necessities, so they’re resizing their braking parts to make working the brakes simpler for any of their drivers. To do that, they’ve been working in MATLAB to calculate what modifications they should make to their system. They’re hoping that they’ll keep their brake bias however make it simpler and extra consistant to hit the competitors required braking necessities.

Power Storage

The second factor that the MIT workforce advised me they had been trying to optimize was the vitality capability of their battery. Throughout the 2021 race the workforce discovered from speaking to different competing universities that their battery total saved much less vitality than a number of the opposite groups. Whereas they clearly did nicely with the battery they’d, the workforce is excited about exploring what benefits they may get from growing the saved vitality in thier pack.


So what’s stopping them from growing the scale of the pack as a lot as doable? With added vitality storage comes added mass, and on the dimension and scale of those photo voltaic automobiles, the pack mass could account for a 3rd or extra of the whole automobile mass. Growing this additional could present extra whole vitality, however the elevated mass will enhance the vitality consumption of the automobile. Balancing this tradeoff when a big portion of your mass is made up by the battery is difficult, as it should additionally depend upon the circumstances the automobile experiences. The added storage might assist the automobile make it over bigger hills or by means of cloudy areas with out having to scale back velocity to preserve vitality, so understanding the route and technique is essential to sizing the battery as nicely.


Along with whole pack capability the workforce additionally needed to evaluate what choices they’d for battery chemistry and cell configuration. As a way to examine how these choices may impression sizing and configuration, the oldsters at MIT are engaged on a MATLAB script that iterates over these choices and the driving methods they utilized in 2021 to see what variations they may get by switching. We’re trying ahead to see how their modeling transfered to their engineering selections within the 2022 American photo voltaic problem.

Nevertheless, the workforce isn’t simply trying to this years race. For ASC 2024, MIT’s SEVT is trying to create the primary entry within the Multi-occupant Automobile class. We want them and the entire ASC 2022 groups good luck this 12 months as they deal with the Oregon Path from Independence, MO to Twin Falls, ID!



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