Solar Team Sneek use Kvaser Ethercan HS to help fly their sustainable boat through the water
Kvaser supplied Solar Team Sneek with a Kvaser Ethercan HS at the beginning of 2022 to help debug CAN bus, using it with a 4G router to setup telemetry for their solar boat.
Solar Team Sneek is based in the town of Sneek, in the Netherlands, known as the water sport capital of the region. We spoke with Meindert de Groot, electrical engineer on the team, to find out how they got on using our Kvaser Ethercan HS and to learn more about their CAN system, their telemetry system, and what they can monitor remotely.
Kvaser: Could you tell us a little about your solar boat project. Meindert: We are a team of enthusiastic students and graduates from a variety of technical disciplines such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and marine/composite engineering. Our aim is to introduce people to the possibilities of electric boats and vehicles and fight for a sustainable future.
Kvaser: How did you use the Kvaser Ethercan HS? Meindert: To communicate between the electronic components in the boat we use CAN bus. The CAN bus gathers data on all the components like battery information (state of charge, the amount of discharge power, etc.), and data from the MMPTs (Maximum Power Point Trackers) to see how much each solar string produces. For the strategy team, this information is crucial to make decisions on how fast we can sail. Depending on the amount of solar, we can decide to sail on hydrofoils to go fast with less energy loss.
To get the info to the Cloud we started with the Kvaser Ethercan HS to bridge CAN and Ethernet. The Ethernet packages are read by the 4G modem and sent to the Cloud, which allows the strategy team to have live access to the data. A VPN allows us to reach the Kvaser Ethercan HS from anywhere with a data connection.
Kvaser: What have you been able to monitor remotely thanks to the Ethercan HS? Meindert: We can remotely check all the data on the CAN bus. We look at things like battery data: min/max battery cell voltages, temperatures of the battery, currents in and out, state of charge, and the data from the solar inverters. To use the energy as efficiently as possible we need to closely monitor all components in the electrical system. We sail on hydrofoils, but can only do that if we have sufficient energy; there is a minimum speed of 16 km/h needed to get the boat to foil. This of course uses more energy than cruising so we must be sure we have the energy for it.
Thanks to the CAN bus, we can monitor the energy received from the sun on each solar array separately. Each solar panel has its own MPPT which sends its own data on the CAN bus, so each panel can be monitored separately.
The power drawn from the motor is also very important as we can deduct from the speed and power drawn how efficiently the boat flies. As we do tests regularly, we have data we can compare. Propulsion issues can also be detected immediately by comparing datasets.
Kvaser: Did you need any technical support from us? And did you use Kvaser software? Meindert: We had absolutely no problem using the Kvaser Ethercan HS. We downloaded the drivers easily from the Kvaser website and used the Kvaser CanKing to initially check if the data came through. When connected we could easily set up the configuration for the Ethercan and immediately send the data over Ethernet to our laptop that was running our own software to log the data in a Prometheus database and readout the data via Grafana.
Kvaser: How did the race go? Meindert: We learned a lot from the race during the summer of 2022! The weather was amazing, and all our electronic components were working perfectly. After about 10 km, however, disaster struck – an unidentified item from beneath the water impacted the back hydrofoil, which houses our drive unit. The blow split the hydrofoil in half and it disconnected from the prop shaft. We immediately took the boat out of the water and started repairs but on the second day, we again crashed into an object underwater, which sadly meant the end of the race week for us.
There wasn’t much we could have done to avoid these mishaps, but we did learn a lot from them. For example, we never thought we’d be at the start line again the next day, but through teamwork and perseverance we succeeded!
Kvaser: So what’s next for Solar Team Sneek? Meindert: Now we are busy designing a new – and better – guided drive.
Thank you Meindert and Solar Team Sneek. We wish you all the best for the 2023 season and keep our fingers crossed you avoid those pesky underwater obstacles from now on!