Design of Centaurus

Centaurus is the University of Minnesota's 8th generation solar vehicle. Design work on Centaurus began in earnest in the fall of 2006, and major construction began in the fall of 2007. The car was completed in late June of 2008.


Due to rule changes for the 2008 North American Solar Challenge, the Centaurus aerodynamics team had to deviate significantly from past designs. New rules mandated an upright driver seating position, which required a much taller car. A variety of designs were created in SurfaceWorks, and tested in Ansys/CFX. Once a design was chosen, female molds were created in order to produce the actual aeroshell through a fiberglass a nomex core lay-up process. Fiberglass was chosen for both the top and bottom of the car this year due to its light weight and lack of electrical conductivity. Carbon fiber was used strategically to reinforce lift points on the bottom of the car.


One of the many things that the team takes great pride in is the car's solar array. The UMNSVP is one of the very few collegiate teams that research, test, string, encapsulate, and assemble their entire solar array in-house. Market availability led the team to choose A-300 silicon cells over the gallium-arsenide cells used in the Borealis series cars. The array team used the laminator designed and built by the Borealis III team to construct Centaurus's solar array to exacting standards.



The team is extremely proud that nearly all of the electrical components on the car are designed and manufactured in-house. Building off of years of work done by previous teams, the Centaurus electrical team redesigned all of the electrical systems on the car with an eye towards reliability and ease of maintenance. Improvements to the power trackers, battery protection, and driver interface circuitry have been coupled with a re-written and cleaned up codebase. The team has also started a project to design a new, custom motor controller that is backward compatible with the old systems. This controller will hopefully see use on the next car.


The mechanical team produces one of the most reliable and cleanly designed cars in collegiate solar racing. Improving on the excellent reliability and durability of Borealis II and III, the team continued to optimize previous designs. The chassis was constructed out of fiberglass composite panel. Double A-arm suspension was used up front, while a single swing-arm was utilized in the rear.