When designing a hotrod to race across the Land Down Under, the engineering students of Solar Team Twente turned to NI LabVIEW software. In October, they will compete for the fourth time in the World Solar Challenge, a competition in which teams worldwide build and race solar-powered cars across 1,850 miles of rugged Australian outback, from Darwin to Adelaide. The competition may be fierce, but with a new lightweight design and motor controller run by LabVIEW, the team members have their eyes on the prize.
Buckle Up: It's Going to Be a Bumpy Ride
Testing the race car on improvised cattle guard
Compared to their 2009 model, the team’s current car is 30 percent lighter, and has optimized aerodynamic performance, 10 times less air drag than a commuter car, and a top speed of 87 mi/h. These improvements are due to a new controller area network (CAN) bus that sends data from the solar car’s attached sensors and actuators to a trailing car through data collection software developed with LabVIEW. The LabVIEW application also sends messages to the solar car motor controller to regulate the car’s speed. In doing so, it takes into account important factors such as wind direction, the amount of solar radiation and rolling resistance.
After months of test and design, October 16, 2011 marks race day. Good luck, Team Twente!
Rev Your Engines
Team Twente presenting their car to the public
>> For more photos and information on the team’s design, check out Solar Team Twente.
>> Ever used NI products to design a car? How did it go? Let us know in your comments below!