25 November 2011
The 32-bit microcontrollers from STMicroelectronics, a global semiconductor leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications, have been selected to control electrical and electronic systems in Stanford University's newest solar car.
The state-of-the-art, technology-laden vehicle successfully debuted in this year's World Solar Challenge, a prestigious sun-powered car race across Australia on 16-21 October 2011.
The Xenith solar car, designed and built by Stanford students, was among some 40 vehicles that set out on a 3,000-kilometre (~1865-mile) challenge from Darwin, Australia to Adelaide. The car's electrical system relies on the STM32 32-bit microcontroller technology from STMicroelectronics, which handles all subsystems from solar power conversion to cruise-control behaviour, from helmet-mounted display control to how fast the car accelerates.
The success of a solar vehicle lies in its ability to maximise the amount of power harvested during periods of daylight and to efficiently balance power resources and power consumption. Four STM32 microcontrollers track the maximum power point to optimise output from the Xenith car's solar arrays, while another STM32 device monitors the voltage, measures the temperature and current and performs critical operations such as controlling the flow of power through the vehicle.
Other STM32 microcontrollers manage communications between the driver, the vehicle, the motor controller and the rear-wheel steering system and handle ancillary systems such as lighting, telemetry and tire-pressure monitoring.
ST's STM32 is among the industry's largest ARM Cortex M-based microcontroller families, offering more than 250 device variants with many different memory configurations and an extensive set of peripherals, the industry's best development ecosystem, and outstanding power consumption and overall functionality. With 45% market share, STM32 microcontrollers are suited for any application requiring real-time control or connectivity from consumer appliances and electronics, through metering and home audio, to medical and industrial networking.
The Stanford Solar Car Project is a student-run, non-profit effort designed to give students hands-on engineering, project management and business experience while raising awareness of clean-energy vehicles. The team operates on a two-year design-and-build cycle and is funded by donations.