The special task of designing a chassis for a solar car


When it comes to building a solar car, of course, one important part is the design of the chassis. It does not only establish the contact between the road and the car itself but it is also essential for the efficiency of the whole car. With that in mind, we started our design process from scratch more than a year ago and this is how we came up with our final design.


The very special use-case of a 3.000 km race through the outback of Australia


At a first stage of our development process, we had to figure out the way we design the chassis. Usual passenger cars with a mileage greater than 100.000 km obviously meet different use-cases than a car which only needs to stand 3.000 km, however the testing kilometers are not included. In addition, whereas commercial sold cars advert the comfort while driving which is mostly made possible by the chassis our Huawei Sonnenwagen will not be designed to offer any comfort for the driver. Sorry about that, future driver of our Huawei Sonnenwagen. The one objective we had to meet is to develop a chassis which lets us drive as efficient as possible. This is due to the only energy source we have, the sun, which can be available all day long in Australia but even there sometimes clouds exist. And thus, to use the collected energy from the sun as efficient as possible is crucial for a good performance during the race. The second important factor, which somehow comes in line with the efficient energy consumption, is weight. Of course, the lighter you are the less energy you need for driving.


With all these points in mind, we started to sketch some first ideas of our chassis. With the lightweight design in mind, we quickly agreed on a design where all wheels have their individual axle and linkage. This also became essential when we discussed our first ideas with the aerodynamic team which is responsible for the outer carbon fiber shell of our solar car. With the individual axles, they are able enclose the left and right side of the chassis but keep the room in-between free for fewer drag while driving.


Prototype of our rear wheel


The next step was the individual design of the linkages. In modern times of modular systems, we tried to be as modular as possible. This is also due to the production costs automatically associated with prototypes. However, we cannot reach high economies of scale as automotive companies do but we still could lower the manufacturing costs by those means. Thus, we designed the front and rear linkage individually but modular for the respective left and right side. The design of the rear linkage can be seen in the attached picture.


Currently, we are very looking forward to assembling the chassis and mount it to our support structure. This will be the process I consider to be the most exciting moment as a designer, when the 3D-CAD data turns into something physical you can turn in your hands and attach to the real model. So, stay tuned for our manufacturing process and the final presentation of the car in mid-July.