Erland Persson

Posted on March 6, 2011 by SVP.

The Solar Vehicle Project recently received news of the passing of Erland Persson, an invaluable advisor to our motor-design teams. In his honor, we contacted a few people who worked closely with him to say a few words about his impact on the team as well as their lives:

"The U of M Solar Vehicle Project (SVP) recently lost a good friend and supporter. Mr. Erland Persson passed away on Feb 22 at the age of 87. He was a distinguished Electrical Engineer who specialized in the design and application of electric motors. He became involved with the SVP around 1995 as a member of the "SVP Advisory Committee". This was an informal group of experienced professionals, organized by the Dean's Office, who attended occasional all-team presentations and provided constructive comments on technical, managerial and funding issues. Erland generously contributed to the project by providing many hours of professional assistance in the development of two custom motors.

The rules for "Sunrayce 99", which were published in fall 1997, required that vehicles have four wheels, rather than the popular three wheel designs. Our EE Team wanted to explore using two modest sized motors, one on each rear wheel, with one providing power for steady speed operation and the other assisting in acceleration and hill climbing. Erland offered to help, and over the next few months, we met numerous times at his office. I was the naive customer, bringing loosely stated objectives for power, efficiency, weight and size, but had no experience with motor design. He was the patient tutor and skilled consultant who guided me through an iterative design process on a professional CAD system. Through this experience, we developed a close friendship and in Fall 1998, we gave a joint presentation to the EE5450 Senior Design class entitled "Design of an Electric Motor for a Solarcar". Eventually, motor control issues scuttled the two motor concept, but the motor was built and tested and is now used as a load on the project dynamometer.

In Spring 2001, Todd Begalke, one of the EE Team members wanted to explore a new in-wheel motor design, with higher power and efficiency than those available at the time. We met with Erland, and he offered to work with Todd in the same way that he and I worked together previously. Under Erland's guidance, Todd developed what has become known as the "Uber Motor". Problems with the manufacture of some electrical components have hampered the development of this motor, so its potential has yet to be realized. Upon graduation, Todd became a graduate student in the EE program at the U of M. He has graduated with a PhD, working with Professor Mohan on a motor project.

The U of M Solar Vehicle Project Team continues to benefit from Erland's infectious enthusiasm, his curiosity and his generosity. By encouraging us to create our own motors, and guiding us through the process of motor design, he planted the seeds for all future team members to expand their perceptions of what is possible."

Patrick J. Starr,
Professor Emeritus
Former Adviser to the Solar Vehicle Project


"During my time on the University of Minnesota Solar Vehicle Project, Erland was always more than willing to impart his vast knowledge to us young engineers, and his passion for technology was contagious. While working with him on the design of an in-wheel motor for the solar car, he inspired me to take my education and eventually my career into the area of electric drives and machines. The thing that impressed me the most about Erland though was his enthusiasm for whatever he was involved in at the time. I still strive to live my life with the same kind of enthusiasm Erland displayed every time I had the pleasure of meeting with him."

Todd Begalke, PhD