Automotive engineering: Keys to come up with innovative solutions 💡


Automotive engineering: Keys to come up with innovative solutions

Continuous training of engineers is key to keep up with the ever faster technological change, as it happens in the automotive engineering industry. For such training to be efficient, it is desirable to exercise it around practical and, if possible, real cases. Technology 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, as well as startups, to collaborate with different companies in the development of new products and services through showcasing their expertise. In addition, they can offer the possibility to work on pilot projects, sign commercial agreements, or win contracts.

Solving these challenges is no easy task; it is necessary to combine technical engineering knowledge with a creative mind to come up with innovative solutions. These engineering challenges allow you to put yourself to the test, show what you are capable of, and develop new skills. It is a way to continuously build up 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, and to hear some tips on how to compete and succeed, you can watch this video which includes excerpts from interviews with 5 of the best engineers who have won ennomotive challenges.

Álvaro Medina, winner of the last ennomotive challenge "Liner system to cover material heaps", talked about three personal experiences in challenges related to the automotive engineering sector and which are the keys to find an innovative solution.  

Automotive Engineering Projects

How to improve a racing car when the power is limited?

In this first project, the challenge was to improve the competitiveness of a racing car, when its power is limited by the rules of the race. Since, at that time, lightness was what prevailed, he tried to remove parts that were not necessary for the operation of the vehicle or that were too heavy. 

They made multiple modifications to the vehicle. The interior was completely changed leaving: 

  • 2 bucket seats
  • a fiber dashboard 
  • a fiberglass body. 

The chassis was also replaced by a tubular chassis, the fuel tank and the damping system. These adaptations were not enough and did not give the expected result.

Alvaro and his team found the solution by asking themselves the question: "How can I lighten the engine without altering it? The answer was to replace the car's engine with a motorcycle engine (Hayabusa 1300) that was capable of producing the same power and was also much lighter than the original. That simple question made me mentally "unlock" new possibilities and discover countless new options. 

Images of the project's competition vehicle

Can a vehicle be turned efficiently without a steering wheel?

The second project was about optimizing the turns of a slalom racing vehicle. Due to regulations, he could not make certain modifications to the vehicle, so he had to find a solution to this limitation in order to gain a competitive advantage and have more control in tight turns. 

Álvaro and the team he was working with wondered if it was completely necessary to use the steering wheel to turn. This led them to devise an independent braking system for each front wheel of the vehicle, which as a result allowed the vehicle to make very tight turns without the need to turn the steering wheel at full range.

Images of the brake system adaptation process

How to cool batteries quickly without using liquid cooling?

In this other case, the challenge arose from the design of an electric vehicle. During acceleration, the vehicle had a very high energy demand in a short space of time, and therefore needed to cool the batteries very quickly. It was necessary to keep them below 30ºC to avoid degradation. The batteries were Voltronix 260 Ah LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate Iron) lead-iron batteries. 

The project required the batteries to provide full power until the moment of discharge. In addition, a lot of discharge intensity was needed and these batteries offered a 10 second pulse 2600 A, although 2000 A in 7 seconds was enough, which was what the vehicle theoretically took to travel ¼ of a mile.

Faced with this challenge, the question that arose was: why use liquid cooling to cool the batteries? From this, he designed a cooling system that used nitrogen spraying and managed to cool the batteries down without utilizing any liquids.

Electric vehicle of the challenge

Keys to obtain innovative solutions

By using a question as a starting point, Álvaro managed to solve seemingly impossible problems. Even the most complex challenges that have not been solved for years can be solved if you look at them from a different perspective. This is why Álvaro stresses the importance of the ability to innovate and be versatile in engineering. In order to propose a solution to a problem in a project, it is first necessary to analyze the problem and rethink the most basic concepts, and secondly, to recognize the priorities of the project and give them the attention they require.

Although Álvaro's experience in solving challenges remains mainly in the automotive engineering sector, this method of solving challenges is applicable to any other sector. When designing a solution for the ennomotive challenge, he rethought the questions already answered by other engineers, resulting in innovative solutions. This method is something that Álvaro always puts into practice in his work as a project engineer, whether it is a completely new challenge or the goal is to improve an existing project.

As a participant, Álvaro 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 different industrial environments and that in day-to-day life you practically don't even consider that they exist". The challenges have given him the ability to challenge himself and make his solution valued. 

Álvaro explains that when he saw the challenge "Liner system to cover material heaps" 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 tarps was done in such a rustic way and came up with an idea to solve it, so the next day I registered on the platform and started developing an outline of what my idea was."

He has also shared other tips to use to develop a successful solution: "You have to look for a solution 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 look for inspiration in things that solve a similar problem, because if it is something that exists and has not been adapted, it will 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 right".

If you are interested in publishing, discovering or participating in new engineering challenges, visit our recent challenges section or register on our website.