Open Source Hot Rod Mod Gives More Power To EV Owners

Nissan Leaf Zooms By with 110KW power after Inverter swap and hack

Meet [Daniel Öster]. [Daniel] is a self-professed petrolhead. In other words, he’s a hot rodder who can’t leave well enough alone. Just because he’s driving a 2012 Nissan Leaf doesn’t mean he isn’t looking for a bit more kick. Having already upgraded the battery, [Daniel] turned his attention to upgrading the 80KW inverter. Not only was [Daniel] successful, but the work has been documented and the Open Source code made available on GitHub. Part of [Daniel]’s mission is to open up otherwise closed ecosystems and make EV hacking and repair approachable by mere mortals.

To get an extra 50hp, [Daniel] could have just swapped in the 110KW drivetrain from a 2018 or newer Leaf, but a less expensive route of swapping in only the 110KW inverter was chosen. By changing out just the inverter, the modification becomes more affordable for others to do. [Daniel] expertly documents how the new 110KW inverter has to be matched to the existing motor by setting a resolver correction value in the inverter.

Swapping Connectors for the new Inverter
Not for the faint of heart, the inverter swap requires changing connectors to a later style.

Cutting into the wiring harness of a vehicle that one is still making payments on is an exercise reserved for only the most dedicated modders, but a change in connectors between 2012 and 2018 made it necessary. The only tools needed were wire cutters, a soldering iron, heat shrink, and perhaps some liquid courage.

Although the hack was successful, no performance gains were had initially, because the CAN bus signal going to the inverter never told it to provide more than the original 80KW. A CAN bus Man In The Middle attack was done by adding a CAN bridge device that listens to traffic on the CAN bus and bends it to [Daniel]’s will. By multiplying the KW signal by 1.3, the 80KW signal becomes 110KW, and full Ludicrous Speed is achieved! Excellent gains in  0-100kph times are seen, but [Daniel] isn’t done. His next hack will be to put in a 160KW inverter for even more go-pedal madness.

Be sure to watch the introduction video below the break. You might also be interested in Nissan Leaf hacks we’ve featured previously such as retrofitting a fast charging port, salvaging batteries from wrecks, and partly resolving serious charging flaws.

42 thoughts on “Open Source Hot Rod Mod Gives More Power To EV Owners

  1. I’d rather like to know what’s “in” these inverters. A rough schematic. Something about the power transistors: are they IGBTs? SiC MOSFETS? How are they driven? All those nitty-gritties :-)

          1. You’d be surprised how anal the inspection office can be about car mods.

            E.g in Norway, if you buy a Chevrolet Camaro with a V6 3.6 liter engine, you pay to the tune of $25,000 in “engine tax”. So, if you import the car with a smaller engine and then swap it out for a bigger one, hoo boy are they gonna throw the book at you!

        1. Even with any type of license I would be very hesitant to touch live conductors with >50V. This can hurt.
          For doing proper work on the equipment, preferably powered down, I would not ask any one for any permission, if it’s my own stuff.

    1. Does it really? I’ve never had issues with wiring up motors. I’ve not got any licenses, but I am a qualified electrical worker, trained as per NFPA 70E and several other standards, and those are more a business liability thing. I was permitted to wire VFD’s and motor starters as a student and a homeowner without any real paperwork.

      1. Well, you can probably wire a VFD such as a HVAC drive unit yourself but that’s “notifiable” electrical work which could require you to have it inspected and signed off by an authority. As a student that would be the responsibility of the school or teacher. In most countries anything that’s hard wired to a house or inside a mains powered device requires a qualified worker or inspection and signing off by some authority. I.e. you’re allowed to build a PC but it’s technically illegal to open up the PSU even just to replace the fan.

        Then there’s the EU low voltage safety directive which covers stuff from 50 – 1500 Volts and puts certain responsibilities on “manufacturers” of devices to ensure that they conform to all the relevant standards, so if you’re selling your DIY modified electric car you might get in trouble for that.

        At the very least I would expect you to forfeit your insurance, and possibly get sued for insurance fraud if you didn’t have the modifications approved, because the paperwork shows that you’re driving X and you’re really driving Y which isn’t covered so you’re actually driving around uninsured.

    2. Answering myself: it’s legal apparently because the guy works/has his own business Dala’s EV Repair that handles the legal side of the matter. This isn’t even directed at the DIY home modder, but “competent EV mechanics”.

    3. Because the laws around cars take years to catch up – friend of mine built his own EV (converted an existing car) and the vehicle inspectors had absolutely no idea how to inspect or approve it – they even suggested (clutching at straws) referring to household wiring regulations which were at best unsuitable and at worse unsafe in an EV application.

      Mains wiring in buildings is regulated because it’s got a lot of history in injuring people and property and buildings are easy to catch ;)

      1. The guy is based in Finland, so I went on the internet and found this:

        “Modification inspection”
        “a vehicle fitted with a motor that differs from the original in terms of cubic capacity or in some other way, or a vehicle’s exhaust emission control system or driving power is changed”

        I suppose because the parts are technically from the same car, but a later model, they can get away with the mods.

  2. He swapped the inverter. The car doesn’t know that and still only sent an 80kW signal. He put a Arduino or something in the middle to multiply the signal so it can reach the full 110kW of the new inverter.

    Maybe take some elementary school reading comprehension practice

  3. It’s typical with ICE based vehicles, that when you add HP via modifications you beef up the supporting systems: cooling, drivetrain, etc. While there MAY be enough design margin in the supporting systems moving from 80KW to 110KW through that motor/drivetrain, I hope if he moves to 160KW he considers more than the wiring and ECU settings!

  4. I’d be more worried about insurance, somebody T-Bones you and the insurance company denies your claim because of “illegal” modifications. Trust me, insurance doesn’t mean you get money when you’re in an accident, it means you can take the insurance company to court to try to make them give you what you have been paying for, and they will spend millions to keep from giving you thousands.

      1. Not quite – most regular insurance companies (as found on meerkat-centric comparision sites) won’t touch modifications these days, especially significant ones like upping the power.

        Funny enough, those that do are often very reasonable (at least for older drivers) and far more likely to give you low hassle over a claim than the “cheapest of the cheap” brokers.

        1. It’s probably similar to insuring exotic cars for the insurer. They go from a large pool with risk all over the place to a small well-understood pool of insured.

          To me a small increase suggests little overall risk. Insurers tend to understand things in aggregate statistics very well.

  5. The value in the (CAN) signal to the inverter requesting the output is multiplied to now accomodate for a range from 0 to 110 from an input range (probably from the pedal) of 0 to 80.

    110 / 80 ≃ 1.3 (very roughly)

    So not too difficult to understand I think.

    I’m with you though that something else than an actual power (Watt) request migth be more likely. (e.g. torque (Nm))

    1. Typically you request from system what you can measure. Inverters must measure power to operate efficiently, so you can easily request power from inverter. Cars don’t really measure torque (it’s typically only calculated) so there is no good reason to request torque, here torque will simply follow power. In ICE cars you don’t even request power with your gas pedal, you request some percent of opening of throttle, which only correlates with power (you get different power levels at different engine speeds and air temperatures at the same throttle position).

  6. I wonder if some similar CAN MitM data interception could allow hybrid cars (Prius for instance) to run with E85 (85% Ethanol) gas without constantly having the “motor lean” and motor fault light on?
    And if some similar mods/improvements exist for Prius?

  7. Soldering on an automotive wiring harness is an accident waiting to happen…. There is a reason everything is crimped on original harnesses. Even splices are solderless ultrasonic welded. But hey worst thing that could happen is a small battery fire? ;)

    1. Indeed, your average solder joint does not fare well with vibration at all. When wire meets a “hard point” that tends to focus the forces and leads to metal failure much quicker. In example, take a metal coat hanger and holding it far apart you can bend it back and forth for a very long time, but grab two points very close together (about 5mm) by using pliers and you can get it to break in a dozen bends or so. the shorter the distance the higher the stresses to breaking point. Vibration can do this dozens to thousands of times per second… failure is imminent.

      However, there is a means to alleviate that. If the solder joint is well supported and not connected to a “hard point” that does not vibrate as much, the vibrations are passed through the whole joint as a unit and has only a miniscule effect. This is usually learned from long experience or intensive practical teaching methods, not something that is always the purview of an average DIY mechanic who only does things occasionally. *Those* are the situations that caused a lot of those regulations to be written in the first place. Some fool thought something “would be fine”, only to learn the error of their thoughts in the worst possible way. Most rules and regulations in OSHA and the NFPS and NEC were written in blood and destruction.

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