The World Solar Challenge is a biannual event drawing about 40 teams from universities, car manufacturers, and individuals to race across 3,000 kilometers of the Australian outback. Engineering ingenuity and grit are typically the difference-makers, with teams only having a limited amount of time to design, prototype and test their vehicles. This will be the first World Solar Challenge for Cambridge University Eco Racing, and the team is finalizing the car’s design and testing in SolidWorks and Abaqus.
“When you think about it, this is just one big optimization problem to solve,” said Charlie Watt, a fourth year graduate student and Eco Racing Team Leader. “The solar panels we use only generate about 1 kilowatt of power, which is what a hair dryer uses. SolidWorks and Abaqus helped us find the best aerodynamic design to reduce rolling resistance, drag, and overall weight so we could wring the best performance from the battery.”
The team used SolidWorks software to model the chassis with an eye toward slimming down the profile to reduce the drag coefficient while maximizing the solar panel’s sun exposure. The team explored a variety of shapes in SolidWorks to find the fastest solution, while eliminating potentially costly errors such as part interference out of the design before prototyping began. “We were able to complete the design in a virtual environment without expending any materials such as wood, aluminum or carbon fiber, which is a huge advantage with limited time and resources,” said Watt.
Watt used SIMULIA’s Abaqus finite element analysis software to evaluate the realistic stress performance of the solar car’s chassis. The team used the SolidWorks Associative Interface for Abaqus to easily transfer their SolidWorks model to Abaqus FEA to quickly analyze the physical behavior of different materials, with the goal of optimizing weight against performance and cost. “We looked at using aluminum, steel, carbon fiber, bamboo, birch plywood, and PVC piping,” he said. “The analysis results from Abaqus showed us on screen that plywood, for example, wasn’t rigid enough to withstand the speeds. Other materials were either too expensive, or too unknown to pursue further in such a short timeframe. In the end, we went back to aluminum because we’re more familiar with its properties.”
About Cambridge University Eco Racing
University Eco Racing (CUER) is a team developing a solar-powered car to compete in the World Solar Challenge 2009. Founded in 2007, CUER has already built a prototype vehicle Affinity, which was the first solar-powered car to drive legally on UK roads, following its launch in June 2008. For more information, visit the Web site www.cuer.co.uk.
SIMULIA is the Dassault Systèmes brand that delivers a scalable portfolio of Realistic Simulation solutions including the Abaqus product suite for Unified Finite Element Analysis, multiphysics solutions for insight into challenging engineering problems, and SIMULIA SLM for managing simulation data, processes, and intellectual property. By building on established technology, respected quality, and superior customer service, SIMULIA makes realistic simulation an integral business practice that improves product performance, reduces physical prototypes, and drives innovation. Headquartered in Providence, RI, USA, SIMULIA provides sales, services, and support through a global network of regional offices and distributors. For more information, visit www.simulia.com.
SolidWorks, a Dassault Systèmes S.A. subsidiary, is a world leader in 3D solutions. It develops and markets software for design, analysis, product data management, and documentation. It is the leading supplier of 3D CAD technology, giving teams intuitive, high-performing software that helps them design better products. For the latest news, information, or an online demonstration, visit the company’s Web site ( www.solidworks.com) or call 1-800-693-9000 (outside of North America, call +1-978-371-5000).
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