For more than 15 years, students from the Technical University of Munich have invested their time and engineering talents to compete in the annual Formula Student competition. In this annual global event, the largest of its kind, student teams from around the world design, build, test, and race small-scale formula-style racing cars – many of which incorporate the latest, most innovative vehicle technologies.
In its latest iteration, the “TUfast Racing Team” has leveraged the Digi ConnectCore® 6UL single board computer to create the eb018, a four-wheel-drive (4WD) electric racecar with in-wheel motors. The eb018 was the lightest ever 4WD electric racecar of the Formula Student series. It set fastest lap times at the 2018 Formula Student competitions in Hockenheim and Barcelona. While the events are hosted at Formula One racing circuits, the laps raced in Formula Student competitions are only a fraction of the Formula One laps.
The eb018 set the fastest lap time at the Formula Student event in Silverstone and Australia. The eb018 also won the overall competition. The vehicle was entirely designed and developed by the 90-student team, each of whom was responsible for a specific individual component. According to Florian Sauerbeck, one of the student development engineers for TUfast, the telemetry system plays a crucial role in the car design. “It allows our team to access data from the car and adjust parameters online to get the best possible performance,” he said. “For our vehicle, we selected the Digi ConnectCore 6 UL SBC Pro to power our telemetry system.” The TUfast team secured the Digi technology at no cost through a sponsoring grant from Digi.
THE SBC BUILT FOR SPEED
The ultra-compact, ConnectCore 6 UL SBC Pro is a versatile, off-the-shelf single-board computer that significantly accelerates engineering designs by virtually eliminating the traditional risk, effort, and complexity of custom board designs without sacrificing flexibility or capabilities. Built on the ConnectCore 6 module, it provides a common platform with scalable NXP i.MX6 performance, pre-certified Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi integration, Digi XBee® RF module and cellular connectivity options, Gigabit Ethernet support, multi display, and reliability in harsh environments.
“This was the perfect choice for our design,” Sauerbeck said. “The off-the-shelf integration capabilities provided all the interfaces we needed – especially since we were on a tight schedule. It has an ideal size/weight ratio for our vehicle. And it directly mounts on our self-developed ECU board to act as a gateway from the car to our notebook-based telemetry apps. It was smooth and easy to integrate both hardware and software.”
FLEXIBLE COMMUNICATIONS INTERFACES
With a total weight of less than 600 g for the ECU, telemetry system, housing, and connectors, the eb018 boasts one of the lightest telemetry systems in the Formula Student competition. The sheer volume of connectivity interfaces enable the team to create a unique telemetry system combining a range of communications options.
Additional technology incorporated into the system includes:
- An 868 MHz radio for long-range transmissions of critical data
- Wi-Fi for downloading recorded logs and wirelessly updating the car’s software.
- LTE for communication to the driver with VOLTE; this will be a huge part of data transmission in future TUfast race cars.
The ConnectCore board’s XBee socket made the integration of expansions as easy as possible. “The software development flow was extremely smooth and rapid through the Yocto Project operating system,” said Sauerbeck. Since the ConnectCore 6UL SBC Pro offers other interfaces like Bluetooth and media interfaces, we hope our team can build on this board and its successor products in the future.”