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29 Oct 2018, 15:24

Técnico Solar Boat - powered by TRACO POWER DC/DC converters

Técnico Solar Boat

Técnico Solar Boat is a university project consisting of cross-degree engineering students from Instituto Superior Técnico, the major engineering university in Portugal, that work together on the development of a solar-powered boat. The team's main purpose is to participate in worldwide university competitions, such as Monaco Solar & Energy Boat Challenge.


In July 2018 Técnico Solar Boat participated in two competitions, first in the Netherlands and then in Monaco. These international competitions tested the boat to the limit, challenging its performance in speed, control and endurance. Pretty much everything in the boat was made by the project team, from the hull to the electrical system to everything that is mechanical. TRACO POWER high power DC/DC converters were used to build the whole electrical system from scratch. 

Watch how the Solar Boat performed in the Monaco competition in this video:

Powering the Electrical System

The boat's electrical system has many different components that need different voltages. The system was divided into two main parts, the battery box and the electronics box. The battery box contains the main battery, which is rated at 44.4 V, MPPTs (maximum power point trackers) for the solar power and all our DC/DC converters. The electronics box contains all the control and monitoring parts, including a hydrofoil control system, a motor control system and a Raspberry Pi which collects all the data from the microcontrollers and sends it to a database via a 3G module. These control systems need to be powered at 24V and also 12V. As can be seen in figure 1, TRACO POWER DC/DC converters were used to get the voltages needed to our electronics box.

 Figure 1: Simplified illustration of the system 

TRACO POWER DC/DC converters in the boat

TRACO POWER has a wide range of DC/DC converters, from high to low power, from DIN-Rail to SMD mount, with larger or smaller input ranges, customized solutions, etc. This meant that the Solar Boat team had a lot of options available to them and initially wanted to use the 100 Watt TEP 100 series converters because of their high 93% efficiency. However, these had an input range of 36-75 V. This would have been risky to use since the battery has a voltage range that goes from 35 V to 50.4 V due to its discharge curve.

So the team opted to use TRACO's 100 Watt TEP 100WIR series, these have an incredibly large input range but are slightly less efficient. The TEP 100-48xxWIR are 48 V nominal but can work from an 18 V to 75 V  input voltage.

In the Solar Boat's system, they used one TEP 100-4812WIR which has a 12 V output voltage and a TEP 100-4815WIR which has a 24 V output. The TEP 100-4812WIR was used for a part of the motor control and also to power many external components such as fans for cooling and the bilge pump. Finally, the TEP 100-4815WIR was used for the stepper motors that actuate on the foil control system.

Finally, for testing prototypes, components, PCBs or even full systems the team have acquired a 600 Watt AC/DC power supply from the THX 600 series. We got the TXH 600-148 which has a nominal output voltage of 48 VDC and a maximum current of 12.5 A and an efficiency of 92 %. 

Innovative product and technology marketeer, enthusiastic writer and translator, and author of the ultimately underwhelming blog "Oneday711": technology, travel, sport. Particularly interested in the impact innovation has on our lives - good and bad.

29 Oct 2018, 15:24