Homebrew ECU Increases Mazda Zoom

A big problem with most modern cars is the sheer number of parts and systems that are not user serviceable. This is a big departure from cars of just decades ago that were designed to be easily worked on by the owner. To that end, [Anthony] aka [fuzzymonkey] has tackled what is normally the hardest thing to work on in modern cars: the Engine Control Unit. (Older posts on this project can be found at [Anthony]’s old project log.)

Every sensor in any modern car is monitored by a computer called the Engine Control Unit (ECU), and the computer is responsible for taking this data and making decisions on how the car should be running. In theory a custom ECU would be able to change any behavior of the car, but in practice this is extremely difficult due to the sheer number of operations required by the computer and the very specific tolerances of a modern engine.

The custom ECU that Anthony has created for his Mazda MX-5 (a Miata for those in North America) is based on the PIC18F46K80 microcontroller, and there are actually two units involved. The first handles time-sensitive operations like monitoring the engine cam position and engine timing, and the other generates a clock signal for the main unit and also monitors things like cooling temperature and controlling idle speed. The two units communicate over SPI.

[Anthony]’s custom ECU is exceptional in that he’s gotten his car running pretty well. There are some kinks, but hopefully he’ll have a product that’s better than the factory ECU by allowing him to change anything from throttle response and engine timing to the air-fuel ratio. There have been a few other attempts to tame the ECU beast in the past, but so far there isn’t much out there.

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Electric Go-Cart Has Arduino Brains

arduino powered go cart

Oh how times have changed. Back in the 30’s the VW Beetle was designed to be cheap, simple and easy for the typical owner to maintain themselves. Nowadays, every aspect of modern cars are controlled by some sort of computer. At least our go-carts are spared from this non-tinkerable electronic nightmare…. well, that’s not completely true anymore. History is repeating itself as [InverseCube] has built an electronic go-cart fully controlled by an Arduino. Did I forget to mention that [InverseCube] is only 15 years old?

The project starts of with an old gas-powered go-cart frame. Once the gas engine was removed and the frame cleaned up and painted, a Hobbywing Xerun 150A brushless electronic speed controller (ESC) and a Savox BSM5065 450Kv motor were mounted in the frame which are responsible for moving the ‘cart down the road. A quantity of three 5-cell lithium polymer batteries wired in parallel provide about 20 volts to the motor which results in a top speed around 30mph. Zipping around at a moderate 15mph will yield about 30 minutes of driving before needing to be recharged. There is a potentiometer mounted to the steering wheel for controlling the go-cart’s speed. The value of the potentiometer is read by an Arduino which in turn sends the appropriate PWM signal to the ESC.

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THP Entry: Digital Gauges For Everything Automotive

DDAQ

Way back in 2007, someone on a VW TDI forum came up with a new boost gauge project. At the time, it was a remarkable feat of engineering, capable of displaying the manifold pressure on a tiny OLED on the dashboard. No project has yet reached this caliber since. [Digital Corpus] is revisiting the project, making it his own, adding a few upgrades, and entering it into the Hackaday Prize.

The D-DAQ, as [Digital] calls his new project is using an absolute pressure sensor, unlike its predecessor. This gives the turbo gauge a much larger range than the original project, and also allows the D-DAQ to measure partial vacuum in non-diesel turbos.

In addition, the D-DAQ has a much wider scope than the original project, and as such will function as much more than a simple boost gauge. [Digital] sees the D-DAQ as being a complete performance monitor and logger, capable of tracking the exhaust gas temperature, battery voltage, and just about anything else with 10 analog pins. Data will be saved to a MicroSD card, and instead of a single display, the D-DAQ will feature three 160×128 OLEDs.

It’s certainly not what you’d expect from a Hackaday Prize entry, but with these features, it’s very possible the D-DAQ could be a successful product


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

Frankenstein, The Open Source Engine Control Unit

The Engine Control Unit is a vital part of every car made in the last 40 years or so, but unlike just about every other electronic device, open source solutions just don’t exist. [Andrey] is trying to change that with rusEfi, a project that hopes to bring together hardware, software, and engines in one easy to use package. He’s even designed Frankenstein, a full ECU ‘shield’ for the STM32F4 Discovery dev board.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [Andrey]’s adventures in building an ECU. An earlier board was also powered by the STM32F4 Discovery, and he actually drove his 96 Ford Aspire around using this homebrew ECU. It was only firing on two cylinders, but that was only a loose solder connection.

Of course building an ECU from scratch is worthless without the proper firmware that balances and engine’s fuel economy and performance. This sort of testing must be done empirically and [Andrey] has a Kickstarter going for the development of this firmware and some dyno time. No rewards, but it’s worth chipping in a buck or two. I did.

Videos below.

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GEVCU – an Open Generalized Electric Vehicle Control Unit

At Hackaday we’re very happy to see the increasing number of open hardware devices that appear everyday on the internet, and we’re also quite thrilled about open-source electric cars. Pictured above is the GEVCU, an open source electric vehicle control unit (or ECU). It is in charge of processing different inputs (throttle position, brake pressure, vehicle sensors) then send the appropriate control commands to electric motor controllers (aka inverters) via CAN bus messages or digital / PWM signals.

The project started back in December 2012 and was originally based on an Arduino Due. Since then, the GEVCU went through several revisions and ultimately a complete custom board was produced, while still keeping the Cortex M3 ATSAM3X8E from the Due. As you may have guessed, the board also includes a Wifi transceiver so users may adjust the ECU parameters via a web based platform. All resources may be downloaded from the official GitHub.

An homemade 48cc V8 engine with injection

A few months ago we mentioned [Keith]’s first project in the works, a 1/4 scale V8 engine. Today, we are amazed to see that his engine is finished and running really smoothly. What is even more impressive is that the entire project has been completed on manual mills and lathes. The thread on the Home Model Engine Machinist forum contains his build log in which he details how all the different parts were made. The engine has an electric starter, uses a fuel injection system and [Keith] even made his own injection molds for several plastic parts. The ECU is based on the Megasquirt-II, we guess it must have taken [Keith] many tries before correctly setting its parameters. A video of the engine in action can be viewed after the break.

You can find our previous coverage of this project as well as other miniature engines on this feature from last April.

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A black box for a motorcycle

ecu

[Lukusz] has a new motorcycle – a Yamaha XJ6SA – and since it hasn’t been in an accident yet, he thought building a black box to record telemetry from the last 30 minutes of riding would be a good idea. While the project isn’t complete yet, he’s already reading data coming straight from the engine control unit.

After figuring out most of the pinout for his bike’s ECU connector, [Lukasz] found one wire that didn’t actually do anything. This was his ECU’s K line, a serial output that is able to relay the state of the gauges to external devices. The electronic spec of the K line is a bit weird, though, but luckily after finding a chip to convert the signal into something a logic analyzer can understand.

With a logic analyzer connected to the K line – and setting it to receive on at 16064 baud – [Lukasz] was able to get a whole lot of data directly from his bike. In the future he plans to pass data such as speed, indicator lights, RPMs, and the current gear to a Raspberry Pi for logging.