Formula Electric Belgium is a team of 48 motivated engineering students from KU Leuven and Thomas More. Every year, the team designs and builds an electric race car to participate in the Formula Student competitions in the summer. CN Rood supports Formula Electric Belgium with equipment to charge the car and make the car more reliable. We spoke with Wout Vanderwegen (Formula Electric Belgium team member) about the challenges and the cooperation with CN Rood.
Goals for this year
At the beginning of the year, Formula Electric Belgium set three goals. Wout Vanderwegen: "First of all we want to make sure we build a race car that is reliable, both the whole electrical system and the mechanical set-up. Secondly, our aim was to finish in the top five at a race this summer. Finally, this year we have also put a lot of energy into sharing our knowledge with young people to get them excited about a future in engineering. With our newly developed package, we have already reached over 900 students this year."
New chips for increased reliability
The biggest challenge was to increase the reliability.
Wout Vanderwegen: "The previous team had a lot of small new features in their car (Aurora MkII). For instance a semi-active suspension system, DRS and a self-designed Engine Control Unit. These things were beautiful on paper and attracted a lot of attention from the jury during the design presentations. Unfortunately, because of this complexity, the car was not reliable enough and did not finish many races. This year's car, called Titan, is the opposite of Aurora in this respect. Titan is a car where we have placed the greatest emphasis on reliability. Therefore, the Titan does not contain any new features, but all systems are fully functional. An example of this are our engine controllers, this year we have the same engine controllers as in Aurora, but a lot of research has been done to optimise the huge matrix of different parameters. This gives us a much better idea of how the motors are controlled. Besides, we have made a big improvement by integrating new chips. Due to the chip shortage, we simply could not adopt last year's chips. Since we had to replace chips anyway, we took the opportunity to switch to a better chip series. So now we can proudly say that our own-designed electronics are 8 times faster and we can make 4 times more accurate measurements."
CN Rood's T&M devices crucial for testing
To analyse the electronics and ensure reliability, the team used various test equipment from CN Rood. Wout Vanderwegen: "We use CN Rood's Pico oscilloscope to test our electronics before putting them in the car. We also used a Tektronix RSA306B spectrum analyser. This allowed us to detect and solve one of the biggest problems of the Aurora MkII. With the help of the spectrum analyser we found out that our motor controllers caused a lot of noise. This noise was transferred to the battery and disturbed the communication of our battery management system. Since this is a safety-critical signal, this interference caused the car to go into safety mode and not to drive. Using the spectrum analyser, we could see the effect of adding different types of filters. In the end, it turned out that adding some Y-caps was enough to filter out the noise."
Delta Elektronica power supplies for charging
Formula Electric Belgium has not one but two cars this year. Besides the Titan, the Nova (2017) will be reconstructed into a driverless car.
Wout Vanderwegen: “We have two Delta power supplies from CN Rood. The first one is the Delta SM1500-CP-30, which we use to charge the battery of our electric racing car at 600V. We have built this power supply into our big battery cart. This allows us to fully recharge our battery very quickly, so that even between different dynamic events at the competition we do not have any battery problems. Besides we also recently got the Delta SM660-AR-11. This power supply is used for our new driverless car. Since this year we also have an electric racing car that is made completely autonomous. With several sensors and actuators combined with a big computer and smart algorithms, our driverless department ensures that Nova (2017) can drive completely autonomously.”
Excellent collaboration with CN Rood
Wout Vanderwegen is very pleased with the cooperation with CN Rood. "The cooperation with CN Rood is going very well. Both Ivo Kauffmann and Steven Martens are always available and come up with a solution to the problem. We are being helped very quickly and very well. We are very happy to have CN Rood as a partner!