Oregon state university solar vehicle team
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Oregon State University Solar Vehicle Team. Solar Car Mechanical Design. “How do you start the design of a new solar car?”. Mechanical Design. Maximize Power Input. Maximize efficiency (tractive force). Minimize drag. Slide 7 of 62. A variety of vehicle designs. Michigan. Bochum.

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Oregon State University Solar Vehicle Team

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Oregon state university solar vehicle team

Oregon State University Solar Vehicle Team

Solar car mechanical design

Solar Car Mechanical Design

“How do you start the design of a new solar car?”

Mechanical design

Mechanical Design

Maximize Power Input

Maximize efficiency

(tractive force)

Minimize drag

Slide 7 of 62

A variety of vehicle designs

A variety of vehicle designs








OSU, First Car


OSU, Odyssey

Design tools

Design Tools

  • Solidworks 2012

    • Computer Aided Drafting

  • Solidworks Simulation 2012

    • Finite Element Analysis

  • Solidworks Flow Simulation 2012

    • Computational Fluid Dynamics

Initial design

Initial Design

  • Maximum power with minimum drag:

    • Lowest drag with maximum solar cell surface area

  • Design process:

    • Start with 6ft driver with helmet

    • Fit driver with body with max. surface area for cells (6 m2)

      • Good rule of thumb is to go to maximum width and length allowed

    • Wrap wheels, frame and suspension around driver inside body

    • Optimize body

Initial design process

Initial Design Process

  • Insert driver model

  • Design solar car body, draw in “dummy wheels”

    • Fit body to driver model, dummy wheels. Maximum low curvature array area

  • Run wind tunnel testing (Computational Fluid Dynamics, Flow Simulation 2012)

    • Evaluate drag force, power

    • Evaluate cross sectional area vs. coefficient of drag

  • Alter body shape

    • Can be “arbitrary” change

  • Repeat steps 3 and 4


Design to rule initial design

Design to Rule (Initial Design)

  • 6.5.B Forward Vision:

    • From the normal driving position, the driver must be able to see at all times, without artificial assistance, points at the following locations:

      • (1) A point on the ground 8 m in front of the solar car

      • (2) A minimum of 17° above the horizon on level ground

      • (3) A full 100° to either side of center

      • (4) The driver will be required to identify 40 mm high letters at a distance of 3 m through any of the required viewing angles.

  • 6.1 Solar Car Dimensions

    • The solar car (including solar array) may not exceed the following maximum dimensions when moving under its own power:

      • (1) Length = 5.0 m

      • (2) Height = 1.8 m

      • (3) Width = 1.8 m

  • 6.4.B Seating Position:

    • The driver must be seated at less than or at a 27° angle, as measured in Appendix B. The driver’s head must be above and behind the driver’s feet. The seat must be appropriately constructed with a solid base and back rest.

Chassis body reconciliation

Chassis/Body Reconciliation

  • Best “body” initially designed with only driver, dummy wheels

  • Must “reconcile” body with chassis, due to chassis, suspension members taking up space

  • Remember:

    • Aerodynamics most important

    • Handling performance secondary

    • Mass considerations secondary

Chassis design

Chassis Design

  • Build smallest chassis necessary to hold driver, wheels and withstand structural requirements

    • 5G frontal, side, rear impact

    • 4G roll over impact

  • Verify chassis, suspension design with Finite Element Analysis (Solidworks Simulation 2012)

Body re work

Body Re-work

  • Chassis/suspension will “poke out” of body

  • Remake the body for least drag that will fit chassis tightly

Things to remember

Things to Remember

  • Tips for a “smoother” design process:

  • All designs valid unless proven otherwise

    • Burden of good design proof is upon designer

    • Must meet all rules, or design is invalid

    • Absolutely avoid qualitative assertions: quantitative discussions much more useful

  • Offer constructive help, avoid criticism in general.

    • “You could perhaps enhance your design by X,Y,Z” and not “Your design is failing in X, Y, Z!”

  • Avoid stating absolutes, unless you can absolutely prove it!

  • Go offline to compute numbers. Don’t argue with qualitative arguments: doing so will often result in circular discussions.

  • Don’t be married to your own design if someone else’s design is better – we’re all in it together to make the best car possible!

  • No place in solar car team for ego contests.

  • Remember – you’re working with friends. Be friendly!!!

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