Sunday, October 07, 2007

Continuum Technology

After two years of work, Continuum is ready to race. We've done a lot to stretch the performance of our vehicle and it's time that we share more about what we've done.

The Challenge Class of solar vehicles was created to decrease race speeds, increase real world applications, and reintroduce the sport's technical challenge. Key features of the new regulations include an upright seating position, steering wheel, unaided egress, and a limited array size of 6 m^2. Whereas previous vehicles could pack any amount of solar cells onto their vehicle given that it fit within a 1.8m x 5m box, challenge class vehicles can have only 6 m^2 of solar cell area to use on any surface in/on their car. Besides limiting power output, this gives teams the opportunity to use the extra space and limited resources to develop creative designs within new regulations.

After deciding to join the Challenge class for WSC 2007, our engineering division began examining new regulations and designing our new vehicle. Though solar cell area was now limited to 6 m^2, 9,000 watts (9 m^2) of sunlight was still available to teams in the regulated 1.8m x 5m box. Rather than build a smaller car to fit 6 m^2 of solar cells, our engineers chose a design that could gather the additional sunlight while staying within the 6 m^2 limit.

The final Continuum design includes two types of solar arrays. The first relies on encapsulated solar modules containing high efficiency solar cells. These are similar to those used on our 2005 vehicle, Momentum. The second type of solar collection uses solar collectors contained within the vehicle's body. By using parabolic mirrors to collect light and direct it towards a line of solar cells, these solar collectors gather a significant amount of sunlight using a very small number of solar cells.

The development of this system included many firsts for both our team and all of industry. Two team members moved to Pasadena, California for two months where they worked with engineers at Spectrolab in the development of a whole new type of solar module. Thermal management and tracking concerns required creative solutions to maintain performance without consuming additional power. Reflective and clear material forming proved especially challenging thanks to high tolerance requirements and strict weight limitations.

The final product of this research is a light weight, high efficiency, in-vehicle solar concentrator system capable of automatically tracking the sun while traveling at speeds upwards of 130 kph. From initial conception to final completion, the entire development process took a total of 14 months. We're still learning more about the true capabilities of the concentrators every day that we test Continuum.

Thank you to all the team members, sponsors, and supporters who helped make this system possible.





Blogger Furqan Nazeeri said...

Fabulous! You should be proud! I smell a first place finish! GO BLUE!!!!

October 16, 2007 at 4:29 PM  
Anonymous Seun Noibi said...

Love the pictures.Wish the current team the best success in the upcoming race in Australia.I believe you guys can do better than our third place finish in pressure:)...the team i'm sure has put in the crazy hours of work in the workspace and maybe also at the Power Lab...It could just be our year to win our first world championship...that's right beat the coporate racers with all their money...not that we don't have our awesome bussiness team raising money like crazy for Team Continium.
2005 Team Momentum Electrical Division Member...Forever a Fan!
Go Blue Go Smooth Go Blue!!!

October 16, 2007 at 4:36 PM  
Anonymous dassad said...

Great article, i want a car like this :)

June 18, 2008 at 2:59 AM  
Anonymous Charita said...

This is really great, but I am concerned about the practical challenges that have to be overcome before we can see such a product in he market for the consumer. When do you guys think we can see such a model in the market?

Finally I wish you guys all the success at your endeavor.

December 7, 2008 at 9:56 PM  

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