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A solar vehicle for extreme conditions

As light as possible but still stable and durable - these are the requirements that a solar racing vehicle must meet. The vehicle, which was developed by lightweight mechanics as part of this master's thesis, meets them. Even under demanding racing conditions, it drives efficiently, stably, and safely.

Expertise in the design of vehicles

The design of mechanical components is demanding. Depending on the area of application, they have to be particularly stable or as light as possible, for example. When it comes to designing a solar vehicle, a multitude of requirements have to be met simultaniously. The Institute for Mechanical Systems (IMES) is concerned with the design of structures and systems, adapting them optimally to the requirements to which they are exposed. One of the institute's design focuses is on vehicles. Within the framework of a master's thesis, this knowledge base was systematically exploited to design a new type of solar vehicle. The goal set (and then achieved): participation in the Solar Challenge, in order to be able to test and demonstrate in application what is possible today in the design of solar racing vehicles.

State of the art as a starting point

The analysis of already built racing vehicles revealed the areas in which development work is needed. Two fields of work were identified: on the one hand, improving the mechanical stability of individual components, and on the other hand, finding new solutions for dealing with loads that act on a vehicle in different situations while driving.

More stability and a new chassis

In order to be able to increase the mechanical stability of individual components, calculations were carried out on braking and cornering stability. Thanks to the insights gained in this way, it was possible to design a vehicle that slides less quickly in curves. It does not roll over and is therefore safer. Regarding the handling of loads, the requirements that are encountered on the racetrack were taken as a basis. Typical load cases are the load caused by potholes, braking manoeuvres or cornering. This showed that the approaches followed by other teams had to be rethought from the ground up. Instead of using a double-wishbone chassis, a new type of swing-arm chassis was developed. With this type of chassis, the wheels are not suspended horizontally but vertically. This made it possible to considerably reduce the air resistance acting on the vehicle. The result is a solar vehicle that is efficient, stable and safe even under demanding racing conditions.