UBC Undergraduate Research

SEEDS solar vehicle Seif, Soroush; Hashemi, Mahshid; Shao, Tianya; Chan, Lewis


This report will provide an overview of the SEEDS Solar Vehicle project. Background information, objectives, initial designs, deviations from the initial design, project feasibility, testing, and the results will all be presented through this report. The project was initially proposed by UBC SEEDS (Social Ecological Economic Development Studies) “Program [that] unites campus operations and academics to advance the university’s commitment to sustainability and enhance UBC’s reputation as a sustainability leader.” The objective of this project was to design a solar tracking system that could be used in conjunction with any solar panel, and could be installed on UBC’s electric vehicles as a supplementary energy source to mains electricity. The aim of this project is to reduce UBC’s dependency on mains electricity and minimizing carbon footprint by reducing fossil fuel energy sources consumption. A solar tracking system will be designed to increase the energy conversion efficiency of the solar panels. Research on solar tracking systems has shown promising results by increasing the efficiency of the panels by 30-50% for a given area versus modules with a fixed angle. The group has proposed a number of different tracking systems and the most efficient design with lowest power consuming components has been selected. Our first concept involved using two servos and an Arduino for the 2-axis solar tracking. Low speed, and the panel’s weight encouraged more design analysis. In order to maximize the speed and power of the system, linear actuators were selected. This design involved four linear actuators working as the main components of the system. However, preliminary calculations suggested a large amount of power required to run these actuators. In order to overcome this issue and minimize the power required to run the system, we have modified our design. In this final design a predefined optimum angle will be selected based on the month of the year. A vertical rotational axis will be employed to track the sun. This design also enables drivers to flatten the solar panels to enter the underground parking for maintenance purposes. This potential couldn’t be reached with the previous designs. The CAD drawings of the final design were submitted to the shop and the manufacturing of all the designed components has been completed, received and assembled. We have simultaneously worked on the programming part of this project and have successfully completed this task. The solar tracking circuit that includes all the switches, light sensors, and programmed chip has been developed and testing has been performed. The aim of this project is to minimize UBC’s carbon footprint and minimize the environmental impact of electric cars by using renewable energy sources to charge the batteries on these cars. It is illogical to employ this device without thinking of the environmental impact of the raw materials used. Recyclable metal was used in the construction of the frame and for the rest of the components. Priority will be given to products made out of recyclable materials. Solar panels will remain under usage by UBC car fleet or will be reused for researching purposes. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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