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Accurate power analysis boosts solar race car’s range, speed and competitiveness

31 July 2020

The Yokogawa WT5000 Precision Power Analyser is being used by Solar Team Twente, to maximise their chances of winning the ultimate challenge for solar-powered race cars, the biennial Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.

This young team comprised aerodynamic, electrical, mechanical and structural engineers from the University of Twente and the Saxion University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Having first taken part in 2005 and finishing ninth, they were determined to win the 1864-mile (3000km) race from Darwin in the north of Australia to Adelaide in 2019. 
To win the World Solar Challenge, a race car must generate as much solar energy as possible possible. It must then efficiently convert the electricity it generates and deliver it to the wheels. At the same time, it must keep energy losses to a minimum: race teams pay minute attention to aerodynamic design to keep wind resistance to a minimum. In the case of RED E, the name given to Solar Team Twente’s race car, total wind resistance is the equivalent of a conventional car’s wing mirror. The driver must then race as fast as possible but not so fast that the car’s battery runs out of power when it is not in bright sunlight. 

There are four important electrical systems in a solar race car: the array of solar panels, the battery and its management system, the inverter (motor drive) which converts the solar panels’ direct current output to a three-phase alternating current supplied to the motor, and the motor itself. The team was aiming for the electrical power conversion circuits to surpass 99% efficiency.

Read the full article in the August issue of DPA.

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