Since the rule change in June, the whole team has been hard at work developing our car to meet the new regulations. We have a design for the new car but, as it is not yet launched, this blog post cannot give too much away. Here is a description of a few things we have been doing over the summer break.
In the first weeks following the rule change, the team as a whole undertook a clean sheet concept generation process, producing some 20 different concepts. We analysed each one, looking at the key parameters that make a solar car go fast. The top three scoring concepts were investigated further. By August, we had decided on a concept and I began a placement at the National Composites Centre (NCC), tasked with designing a carbon fibre monocoque chassis. At this point the aero shell was not yet finished, so the plan was to design the chassis in a way that would be easily adapted to a different shape. The outcome of this was a good estimate of the material requirement and weight of the chasses, as well as teaching me important skills needed for designing with composites. Now that the aero shape is reaching maturity, I have started to re-run some of the analysis, with the pleasing finding that the chassis weight is actually coming down!
The other task at the NCC was to come up with a manufacturing process for our shell. The NCC were keen for me to develop my own process, taking parts from a number of existing processes, in order to find an economic solution for small volume car manufacture. The team, in partnership with our sponsors will undertake manufacture at various facilities around Europe. Resultantly, some of my time has naturally turned to organising the logistics of the chassis manufacture. Procurement of materials is well under way; thanks to our sponsors UMECO (recently taken over by and soon to be rebranded as Cytec) and Mouldlife for supplying us with many of the materials we need for manufacturing both the car and the mould. Jaguar Land Rover has also offered us help with machining the car shape (see previous post).
In the past month, pushing the aero design forwards has really been our critical path, so we diverted some Mechanical team resources to the Aero team in order to ensure we achieve the best possible shape on time.
Alex Robinson, our systems designer, and Yang Lu our technical director have now finished their placements with McLaren F1 and they have been able to increase their input to the team substantially this week. This is fantastic, as other parts of the car are starting to progress at a really fast pace.