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An electric experience

After the Monaco Formula E Prix, Venturi reveals the secrets to its success.

Earlier this month, New Electronics watched as Venturi driver, Felipe Massa, took third place at the Formula E Prix in Monaco.

The all-electric-powered FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) championship which began in 2014, is a tense 45-minute race where drivers are required to use their power resource as efficiently as possible. Unlike Formula 1, there aren’t any pitstops.

The cars are standardised so the key to better performance is to optimise the powertrains, according to Susie Wolff, the Venturi team principal.

Rohm provides the full SiC power modules used in the inverter – the core of the electric vehicle power train – by Venturi. Having become its official technology partner in season 3 (2016-17), the power company says that it has made significant advances since.

For season 3, Rohm supplied SiC-SBDs, but this year (season 4) its SiC combines SiC SBD and SiC MOSFETs. The module’s large power throughput is owed to an improved internal module structure and optimised thermal management.

Compared to conventional IGBT modules with similar current ratings, the module reduces switching losses by 75% at a chip temperature of 1500C. The high frequency drive facilities the use of smaller peripheral components.

This, as well as the effect of reductions in switching losses, contributes to a more compact cooling system.

By using the full SiC power modules in the inverter section for season 4, it is 30% smaller and 4kg lighter than the previous season.

“Formula E is mostly a software race,” explains Wolff. “And we’ve had to use our software expertise to resolve issues in the past. It’s no secret we had problems with our brake by wire system. It’s complex to get it working consistently, with the driver having the same brake pressure every corner. But we have some great technicians on the software side who were able to fix this through programming and lots of work on the simulator.”

Wolff has been in motorsport for a long time. At the age of 13 she was named British Woman Kart Racing Driver of the Year, which she held onto for four consecutive seasons.

After retiring from competitive driving at the end of 2015, she made a personal commitment to increase the intake of women in motorsport across all areas.

She created ‘Dare to be Different’ an initiative in collaboration with the UK Motorsport Governing Body and Motorsports Association, which later united with FIA’s own initiative ‘Girls on Track’. The goal is to create a global outreach aimed squarely at identifying and inspiring the next generation of female motorsport talent.

A large portion of the Venturi team is in fact female, something the manufacturer is very proud of, however, as much as Wolff champions women in motorsport, she says the team is skills-driven.

“We employ the best people in every area and it just happens that a lot of them are women.”

She explains that she is receiving more CVs from females, but they’re still outnumbered. “If women don’t apply in the first place then we can’t offer them the opportunity to get involved,” she says, “but equally, industry needs to inspire and allow for that opportunity in the first place.” Wolff does believe that the world is changing. “A movement has certainly begun in schools to encourage more females into STEM careers, but progress is slow”.

However, when her role was first announced at Venturi she faced family-centred questions.

“There’s only one interview I’ve had where I haven’t been asked about my gender. I don’t mind talking about it, that’s how we spread the word and encourage more women, but I look forward to the day where my gender isn’t relevant anymore.

“I want to see girls able to step onto the track because they were inspired, because they knew about the sport and because someone gave them an opportunity.”

Author
Bethan Grylls

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