Automotive engineering: The keys to achieving innovative solutions
The continuous training of engineers is key to keeping up with an increasingly rapid technological change, as is the case with automotive engineering . In order for said training to be really efficient, it is desirable to exercise it around practical cases and, if possible, real ones. Technological open innovation challenges represent a good opportunity for engineering professionals to gain experience and a practical way to train their skills.
These challenges allow technology experts, and also startups, to collaborate with different companies in the development of new products and services with their knowledge. In addition, they may offer the possibility of working on pilot projects, signing commercial agreements or obtaining contracts.
Solving these challenges is not an easy task, it is necessary to combine technical engineering knowledge with a creative mind in order to come up with innovative solutions. They allow you to test yourself, show what you are capable of and try out new skills. It is a way to continuously develop professional skills, beyond one’s own knowledge and one’s own limits.
To better understand what the experience of participating in a challenge is like, the motivation that drives you to it and hear some advice on how to compete and be successful, you can watch this video that contains excerpts from interviews with 5 of the best engineers who They have won ennomotive challenges.
Álvaro Medina, winner of the latest ennomotive challenge: “Canvas system to cover material piles”, explains to us through three personal experiences in challenges related to automotive engineering what the keys are for him to find an innovative solution.
Automotive engineering projects
How to improve a racing car when power is limited?
In this first project that he tells us about, the challenge was to improve the competitiveness of a competition vehicle, when its power was limited by the rules of the race. Given that at that time what prevailed was lightness, he tried to remove the parts that were not necessary for the operation of the vehicle or that were too heavy.
The changes they made to the vehicle were multiple. The interior was completely changed leaving:
- 2 bucket seats
- a fiber dashboard
- A fiberglass body.
The chassis was also replaced by a tubular one, the fuel tank and the damping system.
Álvaro and his team found the solution by asking themselves the question of how can I lighten the engine without altering it. The answer was to replace the car engine with a motorcycle engine (Hayabusa 1300) that was capable of producing the same power, but being much lighter than the original. That simple question made me mentally “unlock” new possibilities to what was established and discover infinite new options
Can a vehicle be turned efficiently without a steering wheel?
The second project tried to optimize the turns of a slalom competition vehicle. Due to regulations, he could not make certain modifications to the vehicle, so he had to find a solution to this limitation to achieve a competitive advantage and have more control in tight turns.
Álvaro and the team he worked with wondered if it was really necessary to use the steering wheel to turn.
How to cool batteries quickly without using liquid cooling?
During acceleration, the vehicle had a very high energy demand in a short space of time, and therefore needed to cool down the batteries very quickly. It was necessary to keep them below 30ºC to prevent their degradation. The batteries were Voltronix 260 Ah iron-lead-lithium LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate).
The project required the batteries to provide their full power until the time of discharge. In addition, a high discharge intensity was needed and these batteries offered 2600 A in a pulse of 10 seconds, although 2000 A in 7 seconds was enough, which was what it theoretically took the vehicle to travel ¼ of a mile.
Faced with this challenge, the question that arose was: why should liquid cooling be used to cool the batteries? From this, he designed a cooling system that used nitrogen spray and managed to cool the batteries without liquids.
Keys to develop innovative solutions
By using a question as a starting point, Álvaro was able to solve seemingly impossible problems. And it is that even the most complex challenges that have been unsolved for years can have a solution if they are looked at from a different perspective. This is why Álvaro underlines the importance of his ability to innovate and be versatile in engineering. To propose the solution to a problem in a project, it is first necessary to analyze that problem and rethink the most basic concepts, and second, recognize what the project’s priorities are and give them the attention they require.
Although due to his studies, Álvaro’s experience in solving challenges was fundamentally in the automotive engineering sector, this method for solving challenges is applicable to any other sector. In designing a solution for the ennomotive challenge, he reframed questions already answered by other engineers, resulting in innovative solutions.
As a participant, Álvaro has also told us that what made him join ennomotive in the first place was “the curiosity to see what kind of real problems there are in the different industrial environments and that on a day-to-day basis you hardly even consider that they exist”. The challenges have given her the ability to challenge herself and to make his solution valued.
Álvaro explains that when he saw the challenge “Canvas system to cover material piles” on Linkedin, his first impulse was to think that “this type of project is not for me”. And he let it go. However, “I kept thinking how covering piles of materials with tarpaulins was done in such a rustic way and an idea came to me to solve it, so the next day I registered on the platform and began to develop a sketch of what it was my idea.”
He has also shared other tips to use to develop a successful solution: “You have to look for a solution that is as simple as possible, without focusing on great sophistications, later when you develop the idea you will solve those details or you will introduce modifications”. In addition, he believes that “it is a mistake to start looking for inspiration in things that solve a similar problem, because if it is something that exists and has not been adapted, it will be that it does not really solve the problem”. He believes that this approach conditions you to do similar things: “First you have to digress and then compare, and if your idea is better than what you see on the market, it means that you have done something well.”