Reverse Engineering A Nissan Leaf Battery Pack

Batteries wear out. If you are an electric vehicle enthusiast, it’s a certainty that at some time in your not-too-distant future there will be a point at which your vehicle’s batteries have reached the end of their lives and will need to be replaced. If you have bought a new electric vehicle the chances are that you will be signed up to a leasing deal with the manufacturer which will take care of this replacement, but if you have an older vehicle this is likely to be an expensive moment.

Fortunately there is a tempting solution. As an increasing number of electric vehicles from large manufacturers appear on our roads, a corresponding number of them have become available on the scrap market from accident damage. It is thus not impossible to secure a fairly new lithium-ion battery pack from a modern electric car, and for a significantly lower price than you would pay for new cells. As always though, there is a snag. Such packs are designed only for the cars they came with, and have proprietary connectors and protocols with which they communicate with their host vehicle. Fitting them to another car is thus not a task for the faint hearted.

Hackaday reader [Wolf] has an electric truck, a Solectria E10. It has a set of elderly lead-acid batteries and would benefit hugely from an upgrade to lithium-ion. He secured a battery pack from a 2013 Nissan Leaf electric car, and he set about reverse engineering its battery management system (BMS). The Solectria will use a different battery configuration from the Leaf, so while he would like to use the Leaf’s BMS, he has had to reverse engineer its protocols so that he can replace its Nissan microcontroller with one of his own.

His description of the reverse engineering process is lengthy and detailed, and with its many photos and videos is well worth a read. He employs some clever techniques, such as making his own hardware simulation of a Li-ion cell so that he can supply the BMS known values that he can then sniff from the serial data stream.

We’ve covered quite a few EV batteries here at Hackaday. Quite recently we even covered another truck conversion using Leaf batteries, and last year we featured a Leaf battery teardown. We’ve not restricted ourselves to Nissan though, for example here’s a similar process with a Tesla Model S pack.

Faucet Add-On Attempts to Save Water by Changing Colors


This augmented water device was rapidly developed during an H2O hackathon in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was built by a software engineer code-named [tamberg]. His creation contained an Arduino Uno, a strip of NeoPixels, a liquid flow sensor, and a tiny lithium-ion battery attached to a cut medical tube that was re-purposed for monitoring water use.

From the looks of it, this project addressed a specific problem and went on to solve it. The initial prototype showed a quick and dirty way to monitor precious water that is literally being flushed down the drain.

To see how the device was made, click the first link posted above for a set of Instructables. Code for the device can be found on [tamberg]’s bitbucket account. A demo video of the device being tested on a sink can be seen after the break.

Continue reading “Faucet Add-On Attempts to Save Water by Changing Colors”

3D Printing Lithium Ion Cells


[Jennifer Lewis] is a Harvard Materials Scientist, and she’s recently come up with a type of Lithium Ion “Ink” that allows her to 3D print battery cells.

You might remember our recent 3D Printering article on Pastestruders, but this research certainly takes it up a few notches. The ink is made up of nano-particles of Lithium Titanium in a solution of de-ionized water and ethylene glycol. When producing the ink, small ceramic balls are added to the mixture to help break up microscopic clumps of said particles. The mixture is then spun for 24 hours, after which the larger particles and ceramic balls are removed using a series of filters. The resulting ink is a solid when unperturbed, but flows under extreme pressures!

This means a conventional 3D printer can be used, with only the addition of a high pressure dispenser unit. We guess we can’t call it a hot-end any more…  The ink is forced out of a syringe tip as small as 1 micrometer across, allowing for extremely precise patterning. In her applications she uses a set up with many nozzles, allowing for the mass printing of the anodes and cathodes in a huge array. While still in the research phase, her micro-scale battery architectures can be as small as a square millimeter, but apparently compete with industry batteries that are much larger.

And here’s the exciting part:

Although she says the initial plan is to provide tools for manufacturers, she may eventually produce a low-end printer for hobbyists.

3D Printable electronics. The future is coming!

[Thanks Keith!]