MIT Solar Car Team Blog

Road Trip to Detroit

As we previously mentioned, the team went to Detroit in July! Though the purpose of the trip was for wind tunnel testing, that activity only took one day, so we spent the rest of the week doing some serious road testing and practicing for the upcoming Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. This week of testing gave us valuable experience, allowed for design optimizations to be made, and gave us critical data on Arcturus’s power draw.

For those not familiar with Michigan, they have some very snowy, cold winters, which leads to many of their roads having pot holes. This was great for testing our suspension, but after proving our rugged design, it was time to allow the drivers to have some comfort in the form of a smooth road. We eventually found a suitable route in a rural town outside of Detroit. While driving out in the countryside, we noticed that there was a large thunderstorm forming on the Doppler RADAR. Fearing there might be hail, and with our trailer a few miles away, we sought the only feasible shelter, a gas station. This was definitely a good call, as, within a few minutes of parking Arcturus, a torrential downpour began.

Arcturus at a gas station

This testing was good, but we quickly became limited by the speed limit on our chosen route, so we graduated to testing Arcturus on rural highways. After speaking with the Superintendent, we were able to set up “camp” at a school along the highway we had chosen to test on. The route also had some good hills, which was great for testing.

Beyond testing the car and training our drivers, the road trip was great for meeting people and doing some informal outreach. Almost all of the people we met in Michigan were very kind and intrigued by the car. In fact, one of the teachers we happened to talk to ended up tweeting about us:

We left Michigan at the end of the week. Everyone was exhausted from seven long days of testing and fixing. This week provided great practice and road time to prepare for the 2015 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. We even managed to get back to Boston in time to get the people who flew in for the week to the airport for their flights out. Check out the pictures from the road trip.

Bridgestone World Solar Challenge PRIMARY LOGO

Sponsor Spotlight: UPS and the MIT CTL Support MIT SEVT

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UPS has repeatedly demonstrated a commitment to community, sustainability, and research and has a long-standing relationship with MIT research teams including a partnership with the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics (CTL). We are excited to announce that UPS is MIT SEVT’s newest Gold Sponsor and is supporting our team by handling the shipment of Arcturus to and from Australia for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Their expertise has already proven invaluable as we navigate the complex customs process.

 

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It is impossible to discuss our excitement that UPS has joined us as a Gold Sponsor without talking about the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics, our other newest Gold Sponsor. The MIT CTL, Directed by Professor Yossi Sheffi, has lead the field of supply chain management education and research for over 40 years. Partnering with almost 50 companies, from UPS to Wal-Mart to Anheuser-Busch, they perform solution-driven research that changes the way the world runs. The MIT CTL has been an incredible supporter of our team, and we’re thrilled that they have joined us as a Gold Level Sponsor.

As Gold Sponsors, both the UPS and the MIT CTL logos are on Arcturus, so keep your eyes peeled when you see photos of us driving in Australia or at community events when Arcturus returns from Australia this winter.

 

Bridgestone World Solar Challenge PRIMARY LOGO

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Arcturus Wind Tunnel Testing

On July 27 Ford donated valuable wind tunnel time that allowed the team to accurately characterize the aerodynamics of Arcturus. Ford has been supporting our team for over a decade: Tesseract, Eleanor, Chopper del Sol, and now Arcturus have all been tested at Ford’s wind tunnel facilities. Ford’s Driveability Test Facility is in Detroit, MI, which is 798 miles from our shop. So we made the 15 hour drive out there with the goal of determining the aerodynamic properties of Arcturus. The most important of these is the power loss caused by drag, which is described by the equation below. P is power lost; ρ is the air density; v is the velocity of the car; A is the frontal area of the car; and Cd is the coefficient of drag.

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The frontal area and the coefficient of drag must be found experimentally. To determine Arcturus’s frontal area, Ford projected a large LASER over the car onto a screen. The dark areas on the screen can then be integrated to find the frontal area.


At first yarn tufts taped to car were used to visualize air streams at the surface of the car while the wind tunnel was running.

To characterize the coefficient of drag, the drag on the car was measured at various air speeds and angles (since C will change with wind direction).  At cruising speed Arcturus has approximately the same amount of drag as sticking your hand out the window on the highway.  

Smoke was then used to visualize airflow above the car’s surface.

 

Pictures from the day:

Introducing… Arcturus!

Photo Credit: Chris Pentacoff

Photo Credit: Chris Pentacoff

Hello world! Meet Arcturus, MIT SEVT’s first four-wheeled car!

After a whirlwind year of designing, building, and testing, Arcturus is now on it’s way to Australia, thanks to the shipping and logistics support of UPS and the MIT CTL. In just over a month, the car and the team will reunite in Darwin, Australia for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we recall some of our summer adventures with Arcturus and recognize the generous support of our sponsors. If you’d like to support our team’s efforts, please consider contributing to our Crowdfund MIT Campaign.

Bridgestone World Solar Challenge PRIMARY LOGO

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Test Driving at Palmer Motorsport Park

This Monday (13 July) we had a great day of testing at Palmer Motorsport Park, a new 2.3 mile track located less than two hours from the shop in the hills of Massachusetts. Palmer Motorsport Park was generous enough to donate to us this track time making them one of our newest sponsors. This track testing was extremely helpful for, as it allowed us to stress test the dynamics and handling of the car, while not having to worry about other cars on the road. We were able to push the car at high speeds through the course’s steep hills and tight turns safely. The drivers gained valuable experience with the car in these conditions and learned to drive the solar car efficiently to conserve battery energy.

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The day began rather early at our shop. We quickly loaded our gear into the truck and chase car, and headed west for Palmer, MA. Along the way there we were able to practice driving as and chase and lead for the solar car; although Arcturus was in the trailer, so some imagination was required. Once we arrived we were graciously greeted by the Owner and Caretaker, and we are able to quickly unload with their help.

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In the first few laps of testing we found a few minor improvements that could be made. Once we had implemented these Arcturus was running even better than before. We were then able to focus more on getting the drivers more comfortable with Arcturus, and the track. Each driver did a few slow starting laps to get used to the course’s tight turns and hills. Then each successive lap was bumped up to a higher speed. By the end of the day each driver was driving at high speeds, while also managing to be very energy efficient. They were able to better understand how to drive Arcturus at high speeds with minimal power draw, and practiced coasting and using regenerative breaking on the many downhill parts.

At the end of the day we had gotten in a good 7 hours of testing, had gathered valuable data for strategy, and even more important driver experience.

Check out some of the pictures from the day:

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Arcturus- MIT SEVT’s newest car!

It’s official, MIT SEVT’s newest car is named Acrturus! Named after the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere, Arcturus will be travelling across the world with us this October to compete in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge!

Optical image of Arcturus; image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcturus

Arcturus can be located by following the arc of the handle of the big dipper; image source: http://burro.case.edu/Academics/Astr201/Summer/Summer.html

 

 

 

MIT SEVT Officially Enters the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge!

MIT SEVT’s application to participate in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge this October has been accepted! The team is now working hard to complete the car and plan out the logistics of getting the team and the car to Darwin, Australia for the start of the race. The 3000 km race takes place from October 18th-October 25th across the entire Australia Outback.

Needless to say, we are very excited to be racing in the world’s most prestigious solar car race, and though we know we will face many challenges between here and the finish line, we’re excited to make it happen.

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Support MIT SEVT in the LITECAR Challenge

Check out our proposal to scale up the solar race car and help us out by voting!

The goal of the LITECAR challenge is to identify conceptual solutions that are beyond the state-of-the-art in the area of (but not limiting to) advanced materials, structural design, advanced manufacturing, and energy absorbing mechanisms to enable future lightweight and safe vehicles. LITECAR is not looking for incremental improvements but pioneering solutions to tackle this problem.

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Check us out in the Google Science Fair Video

The Google Science Fair is an annual online science competition sponsored by Google, Lego, Virgin Galactic, National Geographic and Scientific America. The competition is open to 13-18 year old students around the world who hypothesis, perform experiments and present their results. As engineers and scientists who do this regularly, the MIT solar car team was more than happy to help encourage and inspire students to explore STEM through the creation of this promotional video.

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Chassis

Due to WSC regulations, our new car must have 4 wheels and additional head space. These new design challenges were meet and optimized by Andrew Liotta our lead engineer who designed the chassis. Dillon McConnon, our system lead made sure the chassis integrated well with the other subsystems such as the aero shell and electrical boxes.

isometric view

solidworks rendering of the chassis design

With the design complete and tolerances adjusted, we have now begun the building process. Using 4130 steel tubes, cut and coped to fit at the correct angles the chassis is welded together. This is a challenging and precise endeavor as it is important to have a minimal gap between adjoining rods in order to make a strong weld.

setting up to weld

Priya (left) and Kathleen (right) set up the steel tube in preparation for welding

Once set up (with jigs to hold things in place) the tubes are welded together. In fabrication of the chassis, the preparation takes longer than the actual welding time. Below is a time lapse of one evening’s effort of welding done by Thomas Villalon.

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