Team Interviews: Thomas Mertens

Team Interviews: Thomas Mertens

Thomas Mertens is in his final year of Electromechanical Engineering Sciences at the University of Leuven Campus Group T. Together with his colleague Bob Verschueren, he is in charge of the motor of the Punch One at Punch Powertrain Solar Team.


What was your motivation to take part in the Punch Powertrain Solar Team?

“Since high school, I was fascinated by technique and the practical experience that was part of it. Because of this I studied Electromechanics and felt it was the right study area for me. This is one of the most important reasons that I chose Engineering Sciences at Campus Group T… and it was also close to home. I only learned of the Solar Team when I was studying at Campus Group T. There I often saw the Solar Car in the faculty atrium and there were also frequent presentations to inform the students of the Solar Team. After one of those presentations I asked for more information and applied. I specifically chose the function Motor, as I knew that with this function I would have a lot of practical experience.”


What does your part of the function Motor contain?

“I am mostly occupied with the creation of the housing in which the motor has to be placed. These has specific demands and dimensions that are given by the Aerodynamics and Structural department. Apart from this we also have to make the housing as light, but also as strong as possible. Bob did a lot of research for this regarding different materials and types of motors. Afterwards we made the design together. Finally we improved and tested the motors of the previous teams. After this testing phase we decided to buy a new electromotor since the making and optimizing of a new motor would take up a lot of time and its performances would not differ a lot from a readymade motor.”


How does the current motor differ from the last team?

“The most important difference with the previous team is that they had two electromotors while the current Solar Car, Punch One, only has one. This makes sure that we have less weight on board. By only having one motor, the car will also perform better since the motor will now be working around the peak efficiency point. Thanks to our good positions on the European Solar Challenge and the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge, we know that we have taken the right decision to compete with the other teams with one motor.”


What is the most important thing that you have learned from this experience?

“One of the main things I am thankful for is the large amount of practical experience I have had here. I have already had my first work experience and I still have to start applying for jobs. The Solar Team is a small company on its own, since we are all responsible for our own departments, budgets and deadlines. Apart from this, we closely work together as a team towards a common goal, which is a fantastic experience. Yes it is hard work, but it is especially teamwork.”