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Components | November 21, 2011

STMicro chips control Stanford solar car

32-bit microcontrollers from STMicroelectronics have been selected to control electrical and electronic systems in Stanford University’s newest solar car.
The Xenith solar car, designed and built by Stanford students, was among some 40 vehicles that set out on a 3,000-kilometer challenge from Darwin 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 behavior, from helmet-mounted display control to how fast the car accelerates. The success of a solar vehicle lies in its ability to maximize 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 optimize 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 communication 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. “There are many complicated systems in the solar vehicle that must all function and interact without hiccups – and on a minimal energy budget,” said Gregory Hall, Stanford Solar Car Project. “ST’s powerful, flexible and reliable control devices have an extremely powerful peripheral set and high-quality libraries, which made them a perfect match for our project's exacting performance demands and fast development schedule." “Stanford‘s decision to build subsystems in their solar car around the STM32 technology confirms ST’s strong position in the embedded application space,” said Michel Buffa, General Manager of ST’s Microcontroller Division. “We are proud to participate in the Stanford Solar Car Project, a highly acclaimed program that combines innovative research and the latest in alternate transport technologies.”
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