Northeastern Electric Racing NER17D Project

About the Team:

Northeastern Electric Racing is a student-run organization from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Our team of over 250 students builds all-electric formula-style race cars from the ground up. Each year, we compete against other universities in the Formula-Hybrid+Electric (FHE) competition at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In 2021, our first completed car won 2nd place in the Electric category, along with the Scrutineer’s Award for our excellent documentation and preparedness.

Our Car:

We began designing our first car, NER17D, in 2017. We spent the next 4 years developing our car to comply with the FHE competition rules. FHE is an engineering competition; much of our score is not on the performance of our vehicle, but on our engineering processes and documentation. At the competition, we are judged in two static events (design and project management) and compete in three dynamic events (acceleration, autocross, and endurance).

Given that NER17D was our very first car, we were largely focused on getting it out the door. Over the four years it took to design and manufacture it, our team members learned as much as we could about the ins and outs of building a car for student formula competitions. By the time our car was running, we already had plenty of ideas for improving it. After our first competition in 2021, our engineering team began upgrading several systems on the car including its driver IO, suspension, motor cooling and with the help of PCBWay, our accumulator.

Our PCBs:

Upgrades for NER17D focus on reducing weight and volume, without significant redesigns to our fundamental electronics approach. Our biggest board is the HV PCB, which is located within our monolithic accumulator container. This board will reduce our occupied area by over 50% and potentially enable a significant weight reduction in the accumulator container.

The HV PCB is responsible for regulating the primary current path and providing features such as precharge and discharge to enable safe high voltage and high current operation. Our vehicle requires currents over 200 amps, so the board has been designed as a 6 layer board with 3oz copper on all layers. Additionally, there are a number of large components that require a thicker than typical board to securely support.

PCBWay is one of the few companies that provides numerous options for thicker final stackups, and heavy copper weights for all outer and inner layers, making PCBWay an ideal choice for this design.

This board is our first attempt at moving critical power components to a PCB and our experience with this first board will be an excellent preparation for our next scratch vehicle, NER22. We do however plan for further PCB work in NER17D, such as the new wheel interface.

This PCB has been specially designed for our new custom steering wheel and will enable flexible user IO via a selection of buttons and knobs that will be translated to signals and communicated via CAN. To optimize assembly, the board has been designed to only utilize a single side of the board and even keeps signals to a single layer. This board marks one of our first projects that is entirely dedicated to user experience enhancement, as opposed to pure vehicle performance.

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Nov 13,2022
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