Building an Autonomous Vehicle: The Batmobile
Motor and Motor Control
In 2016, A+PRS allowed 48V systems, so the first thing we did was remove the 24V motor and install a 1,000W 48V/21A motor. The PRS rules limit any system to 1,400W, so we could have gone larger had budget constraints not been kicking in fast. New mounting holes were drilled into the chassis, and a different gear had to be mounted to the end of the motor. But it all went well. The stock chassis even included a chain tensioner that proved invaluable!
The MY1020 48V motor we used is common on the PRS circuit and performed great. However, our original 1,000W motor controller (you should already be able to tell what’s coming) did not do so well. Our first tests of the 48V system in an open parking lot worked great until the motor controller overheated and failed. And when MOSFET-based motor controllers fail, they fail unsafe, meaning our vehicle decided to go to 100 percent throttle and stay there. This is why we have safety switches! Alicia and I were able to kill the vehicle before anyone got hurt.
This failure should have been prevented: a motor controller should be rated for at least 2 times what you calculate your maximum load will be. In our case, if we wanted to control a 1kW motor, we should have been using a motor controller rated to a constant 2kW load. Luckily, the A+PRS rules don’t require you to record how much money you spent (and burned up); you have to report only what is on the vehicle as it rolls on race day.
We quickly located a larger, 5kW motor controller (this one even had reverse!) and got it on order. This larger motor controller has been working swimmingly ever since. Find a motor controller with reverse. You’ll be tempted to drive your souped-up Power Wheels in weird places (like the SparkFun inventory aisles), and a reverse gear allows for hilarious 5-point turns.