Solar-powered Car

July 7, 2007

By easing power-circuit design and providing reliable operation even in tough desert conditions, a Vicor DC-DC module has helped a solar-powered car to compete in Solar Challenge races in Australia. The 1,800 mile race challenges power designs with severe restrictions on energy, space and heat dissipation.

Faced with designing a power circuit for a solar-powered car, to compete in the Solar Challenge across 1,800 miles of Australian desert, a team of young engineers turned to Vicor DC-DC converters. Their challenge was to provide stable and reliable supply voltage to the on-board PC and telemetry equipment, despite hot desert conditions, and severe restrictions on energy, weight and heat dissipation options. In addition, the DC-DC converter would need to handle parallel connection to a motor, drawing high peak currents, which would over-ride the 110V input voltage when the car was being driven.

The design team chose a Vicor V1-2T3-EV DC-DC converter with a 110 V input, 24 V output and a 150 W power rating, to provide power on the low-voltage circuit. This module offered a fast and straight-forward design coupled with sufficient reserve capacity to ensure stable and reliable operation under all conceivable conditions. Its consistently high operating efficiency also meant that it did not require a heat-sink, even in the Australian desert. A smoothing capacitor on the input was all that was needed to handle the peak currents caused by the motor and control circuits. Two other discrete converters were used to generate the 12 V and 5 V supplies for battery monitoring, measurement controller and Bluetooth data transmissions.

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