MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team Road to Australia
Why we need your help!
Though we are lucky to have a number of generous sponsors whose essential support has made it possible to build Arcturus, SEVT needs your help to race in BWSC! Your donations will help cover the following specific costs:
- $3,500 rental fee and insurance for cars and vans to transport the team
- $2,500 lodging in Darwin during the scrutineering phase of the competition
- $2,000 required team uniforms
- $1,000 spare mechanical components such as shocks, bearings, rod ends, etc.
- $1,000 spare boards and components for the electrical system
Each team member attending the race has scrimped and saved to pay for their $2,500 plane ticket to Australia, and the team chose not to attend other races this year so that we could cover the $7,200 race entry fee for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. We are asking for your support now to help us close our funding gap for these last essential expenses.
We've set our fundraising goal at $10,000, but every dollar we raise will help support our team. Some examples of expenses we could cover if we are able to surpass our initial goal:
- $7,000 rental fee and insurance of truck in Australia to tow our trailer and race supplies
- $3,000 food for the 20 team members during the 2-week race period
- $1,000 lodging in Adelaide at the end of the competition
- $700 fumigating our car and supplies so that they can be imported to Australia
- $600 team member registration fees
- $500 rental fee for truck to retrieve Arcturus after it returns to the US
Your help will ultimately support the continuation of hands on learning at MIT. Nearly every inch of Arcturus is built by twenty SEVT members and alumni in the Edgerton Student Clubs and Teams shop. Members engage in the entire engineering process, from soldering over 300 individual solar cells, to machining the suspension system, to building the body with composite material.
Since 1985, the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team (SEVT) has been participating in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge: an intense 1,900 mile (3,000 km) race from the top of Australia to the bottom.
This October, on the 30th anniversary of its founding, SEVT will once again be racing through the Australian outback. However, this particular race will be very special in SEVT history. Over the course of the last two semesters and summers, we have been designing and building our first four-wheeled solar car, Arcturus. With double the motors and increased size and weight, we’ve had to overcome many challenges to build an efficient car. Arcturus has been road tested with a road trip to Michigan, where it underwent track testing as well as wind tunnel testing at Ford facilities. We are striving not only to finish the race but to place in the top ten.
SEVT background and subsystems
The MIT Solar Electric Vehicle team was founded in 1985. The current U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, was a member in the early years of the team. Solar technology and our car silhouettes may have changed over the last 30 years, but our passion for building, learning, and racing with renewable energy has not.
Through our cars, we hope to show the world not only the power of the sun as a renewable energy resource, but also its feasibility in powering transportation. SEVT takes part in the climate change conversation through outreach and education events.
Arcturus’ array contains 366 monocrystalline solar cells with operating at 23.6 percent efficiency. There are 6 strings of solar cells connected in series, and each of those strings are connected in parallel. This wiring design allows the array to continue to provide power, even if one section of the car is shaded or damaged.
The power from the array is optimized by six maximum power point tracking devices or MPPTs. Under different circumstances, solar cells have a single operating point where the current and voltage produce maximum power output. MPPTs act as as interim between the array and the battery, ensuring that the array is operating at the maximum power output.
Our battery pack is made from around 429 lithium ion cells. The cell are regulated by the battery management system, which has safeguards to protect the the battery pack. The battery pack is ventilated and the temperature, voltage, and current are constantly monitored.
Arcturus has two Mitsuba hub motors. These motors were specifically designed for high efficiency race vehicles such as solar cars.
The outer shell of the body was designed to reduce aerodynamic drag, but also remain flat enough to receive as much direct sunlight as possible for the solar array.
The lower body that houses the chassis is created with layers of carbon fiber and honeycomb for both strength and lightness. The upper aerodynamic shell is created in a similar manner, but instead with kevlar, a type of composite fabric, instead of carbon fiber. Kevlar has similar strength and weight properties as carbon fiber, but is non-conductive. The non-conductive property of kevlar is important in the design of the upper body to avoid unwanted shorts in the array wiring.
The chassis was designed to be safe, structural, and lightweight. Safety components include a roll bar and a crush zone to protect the driver in case of an accident. The design and welding of the chassis were both done in house by team members.
The steering system has the basic components a car would, such as a steering column, rack, and knuckles. The steering was also designed to comply with the turning radius in race regulations. The suspension design became more complicated this year with four wheels, but the team continues to both design and manufacture suspension components in house. There are both front and rear breaks, with the front brakes designed to actuate first.
Messages from the Executive Team
Rose Abramson (Captain)
Solar car is an incredible opportunity for hands-on learning and experimentation. Working on solar car is like working on a gigantic engineering puzzle, that requires you to fit together pieces like cost, reliablity, efficiency and manufacturability. I love the engineering challenge of building a vehicle that can make it across huge distances on battery and solar power, as it means sometimes you have to come up with new solutions for old problems. I majored in Electrical Engineering because of Solar Car, and was able to work on several different fields from microcontrollers to power electronics because of the opportunities on the team. It was a great experience!
Dillon McConnon (Systems Engineer)
As a graduated senior, I am in the process of looking for jobs and luckily I have had a few interviews. At these interviews employers ask things like "Name a time you have had a differing opinion from a fellow co-worker and how you dealt with it" and "During a specific engineering project, what could you have done to be more successful in achieving your goal(s)?". My typical answer starts with "On such and such project on the solar car team I..." I try to include more things from my internships or my project classes but nothing seems more real and nothing seems more relevant to these questions than my time on the solar car. The MIT Solar Car team has done so much to help me grow as an engineer and I really want to help the team move forward. This race means keeping the stream of knowledge continuous since our inception in 1986 and subsequently ensuring that all the learned experience from previous years of solar car remain with the team. I want this team to become great after I leave.
Trang Dang (Aerodynamics Lead)
My experiences from being on solar car is the epoxy that binds the technical knowledge from my engineering classes, teaching me the skills to apply classroom knowledge, work on a diverse team that combines many different disciplines and backgrounds, and help bring a large-scale deadline-driven project to fruition. The challenges of building a solar car is the perfect mix of the problems faced by those in the automotive, solar energy, and composite manufacturing industries, and yet is a sufficiently unique mix of all of the above that we still have room to experiment. My greatest hope for the team is that it continue on indefinitely so future engineers can have the opportunity to experience the indellible experiences that the team has given me.
Priya Kikani(Mechanical Lead)
I joined as a freshman and I didn't know how to use a wrench. During my time at MIT, solar car has taught me how to build things that have never before existed. It's a privilege to be on the team, and attending the World Solar Challenge would allow us to test the team's ideas against the best in the world.
Chad Uyehara (EE Lead)
Being a part of the solar car team has been an invaluable experience. It has influenced my future as an engineer as I am currently interning at a company that is developing future battery management solutions for electric vehicles. I would not have had the experience or even thought of being a part of this project if it weren't for solar car. I look forward to travelling to Australia and competing against teams across the world.
Michelle Chao (Composites lead)
I first joined SEVT because building a car that runs only on solar energy sounded like a cool idea. As freshman I had no idea what epoxy or carbon fiber was much less how to do a composite lay up for a car. But I found that everyone on the team was always happy to answer my many questions, teach me how to use tools and explain the reasoning behind the designs. Solar car not only provides real engineering experiences and skills but also creates a unique learning community. I'm proud to call these people my teammates and my friends. Together we've built an entire solar car and it would be amazing to see it race at the World Solar Challenge, letting us put the car we've built to the ultimate test in the Australian Outback.
**Special thanks to Chris Pentacoff, Trang Dang, and Michelle Chao for photos and video footage. Video created and edited by Tianye Chen**