Rick Townend: Driven

Townend designs and manages the operation of the mechanical and electronics systems for high-speed, all-terrain rally racing cars

4 min read
Rick Townend
Road Runner: Rick Townend pushes his race cars to the limit.
Photo: Peter Searle

Motorsport Valley lies in the green, rolling countryside of Middle England, in Banbury, about 160 kilometers north of London. It’s not a valley at all, though. The name is a play on Silicon Valley, which it resembles in size if not topography. This is the center of the United Kingdom’s motor sports industry, worth US $7 billion a year. And it is home to the Subaru World Rally Team, one of the most successful racing teams in rallying history.

Rallying is arguably the most mechanically demanding sport yet conceived. These racing cars start out as consumer models, but almost every part of them has been rebuilt—from the gearbox and transmission to the onboard computers and communication system. Unlike NASCAR or Formula One drivers, who race on fixed tracks, rally drivers race against the clock past a series of control points over hundreds of kilometers on some of the world’s roughest roads.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

The EV Transition Explained

Engineering a new cyber-physical system at scale within the decade poses daunting challenges

7 min read
F-150 Lightnings parked at charging stations at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan

F-150 Lightnings parked at charging stations at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ford

From the outside, there is little to tell a basic Ford XL ICE F-150 from the electric Ford PRO F-150 Lightning. Exterior changes could pass for a typical model-year refresh. While there are LED head and rear light improvements along with a more streamlined profile, the Lightning’s cargo box is identical to an ICE F-150, complete with tailgate access steps and a jobsite ruler. The Lightning’s interior also has a familiar feel.

But when you pop the Lightning’s hood, you find the internal combustion engine has gone missing. In its place is a front trunk (“frunk”), while concealed beneath is the new skateboard frame with its dual electric motors (one for each axle) and a big 98 kWh standard (and 131 kWh extended range)battery pack. The combination permits the Lightning to travel 230 miles (370 km) without recharging and go from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, making it the fastest F-150 available despite its much heavier weight.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

Four Startups Aim to Change the Climate Tech Game

Repurposing oil wells and cooling via outer space are among carbon reduction technologies in the works

4 min read
Aerial view of blue panels on a roof

SkyCool's cooling panels radiate heat from rooftops through the earth's atmosphere, giving an efficiency boost to building air conditioning systems.

SkyCool Systems

Starting a company to develop an energy technology that fights climate change is hard—a lot harder than starting a software company. But the opportunities are huge. Breakthroughs in battery technology, carbon sequestration, and other energy technologies that result in a five-fold improvement over current technology could literally change the world.

That’s what John Hennessy, Stanford professor (and former president) and chairman of Alphabet, told attendees at the Stanford Global Energy Forum, held in-person this month on the Stanford University campus.


Keep Reading ↓Show less

Solving Automotive Design Challenges With Simulation

Learn about low-frequency electromagnetic simulations and see a live demonstration of COMSOL Multiphysics software

1 min read

The development of new hybrid and battery electric vehicles introduces numerous design challenges. Many of these challenges are static or low-frequency electromagnetic by nature, as the devices involved in such designs are much smaller than the operating wavelength. Examples include sensors (such as MEMS sensors), transformers, and motors. Many of these challenges include multiple physics. For instance, sensors activated by acoustic energy as well as heat transfer in electric motors and power electronics combine low-frequency electromagnetic simulations with acoustic and heat transfer simulations, respectively.

Multiphysics simulation makes it possible to account for such phenomena in designs and can provide design engineers with the tools needed for developing products more effectively and optimizing device performance.

Keep Reading ↓Show less