Electric vehicles are slowly but surely snatching market share from their combustion-engined forbearers. However, range and charging speed remain major sticking points for customers, and are a prime selling point for any modern EV. Battery technology is front and center when it comes to improving these numbers.
Solid-state batteries could mark a step-change in performance in these areas, and the race to get them to market is starting to heat up. Let’s take a look at the current state of play.
Every few years, someone pushing a startup to investors comes up with an acronym or buzzword which rapidly becomes the new hotness in those circles. One of the most pernicious is “as a Service,” which takes regular things and finds a way to charge you a regular fee to use them.
Automotive companies just absolutely loved the sound of this, and the industry is rapidly moving to implement subscription services across the board. Even if there’s hardware in your car for a given feature, you might find you now need to pay a monthly fee to use it. Let’s explore how this came about, and talk about which cars are affected. You might be surprised to find yours already on the list. Continue reading “New Cars Will Nickel-and-Dime You – It’s Automotive As A Service”→
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.
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.
It’s an involved swap, requiring the substitution of several parts and surgery on the wiring loom. Cost of components was just 700 euros but the swap required 20 hours of labor. The vehicle in question is an early model Leaf that was already fitted with an upgraded 40 kWh battery, and the owner desired an upgrade to CHAdeMO fast charging to better use the larger pack.
The swap required the power distribution unit to be replaced, and the CHAdeMO port to be installed in the front of the car. The vehicle control module (VCM) also had to be opened in order to run a wire to a relay to activate the fast charging subsystem. Finally, wires had to be spliced to get everything to play nicely between the car and the fast charger.
[Daniel] had the benefit of quality forum resources and a Nissan Leaf that already had CHAdeMO to reference, which helped a lot. At the end of the day, the fast charger worked first time, much to [Daniel]’s relief. We’ve featured his work before, too. Video after the break.
All this working from home is pretty great, but we have to admit that we miss packing up the Hackaday office and heading for the local coffeehouse once in a while to spend a few hours writing against the buzzing background. One thing we don’t miss about the experience is that you’re never guaranteed a place to sit and spread out. And unless you trust a friendly stranger to keep an eye on your stuff while you’re in the bathroom, you have to take it with you at the risk of losing your table.
If only we could afford one of Nissan’s mobile office pod concept vehicles. We’ve always wanted to pretend we’re doing surveillance and would probably have the thing wrapped with graphics for a fake flower shop or something. That would certainly make it easier to park somewhere and borrow someone’s open Wi-Fi network — maybe even from the coffeehouse parking lot after we hit the drive-thru.
As you’ll see in the extended tour video below, Nissan seem to have thought of everything except restroom facilities. The cab-over-engine design and all-terrain tires would make it easier to drive out into nature and really get away from it all. Once you’ve found the perfect spot, you can open the lift gate for some fresh air, or get some sun while you work by pulling out the motorized unibody-constructed cubicle which includes a built-in Herman Miller Cosm chair. (Evidently the Aeron is old and busted now; we disagree). For some reason, the cubicle is edge-lit, and not in a way that would help you work at the desk. According to the video, it’s based on the Caravan NV350, which looks far more comfortable but not as cool when outfitted as an alternate mobility concept.
The office pod has some nice amenities like a DC-AC converter so you can run your Keurig or Nespresso, and there’s even a UV-disinfecting lamp in the glove box. The larger windows behind the cab can be electronically shaded so you don’t bake in the sun. Here’s where things get a bit ridiculous: the floor is made of clear polycarbonate in case you want to park lengthwise over a small stream and watch the surviving fish go by underneath your feet. And if you really want to take a break, climb up to the roof deck and stretch out in the chaise lounge beneath the deck umbrella.
Now for those of us who are a more interested in how this whole process works, [ea] was kind of enough to provide a very detailed account of how the exploit was discovered. Starting with getting a spare Linux-powered head unit out of a crashed Xterra to experiment with, the write-up takes the reader through each discovery and privilege escalation that ultimately leads to the development of a non-invasive hack that doesn’t require the user to pull their whole dashboard apart to run.
The early stages of the process will look familiar to anyone who’s messed with embedded Linux hacking. The first step was to locate the board’s serial port and connect it to the computer. From there, [ea] was able to change the kernel parameters in the bootloader to spawn an interactive shell. To make things a little easier, the boot scripts were then modified so the system would start up an SSH server accessible over a USB Ethernet adapter. With full access to the system, the search for exploits could begin.
After some poking, [ea] discovered the script designed to mount USB storage devices had a potential flaw in it. The script was written in such a way that the filesystem label of the device would be used to create the mount point, but there were no checks in place to prevent a directory traversal attack. By crafting a label that read ../../usr/bin/ and placing a Bash script on the drive, it’s possible to run arbitrary commands on the head unit. The provided script permanently adds SSHd to the startup process, so when the system reboots, you’ll be able to log in and explore.
So what does [ea] want to do with this new-found exploit? It looks like the goal is to eventually come up with some custom programs that extend the functionality of the in-dash Linux system. As it seems like these “infotainment” systems are now an inescapable feature of modern automobiles, we’re certainly excited to see projects that aim to keep them under the consumer’s control.
It’s often said that one of the advantages of owning an electric vehicle is reduced maintenance costs, and for the most part, that’s true. That is, until the vehicle’s battery pack starts to show its age. Then you might be on the hook for a repair bill comparable to swapping out the engine on your old gas-burner. Depending on the age of the vehicle at that point, you might find yourself in the market for a new ride.
But in his latest video, [Daniel Öster] demonstrates that you can replace the battery in a modern electric vehicle without breaking the bank. While it’s not exactly an easy job, he manages to swap the pack in his 2012 Nissan LEAF from the comfort of his own garage using common tools and with the vehicle up on jack stands. The old battery wasn’t completely shot, so he was even able to recoup some of his costs by selling it; bringing the total price of the operation to approximately €2,122 ($2,500 USD).
While that wouldn’t be a bad deal even for a simple swap, the operation was actually an upgrade. The car was originally sold with a 24 kWh battery, but [Daniel] has replaced it with a 30 kWh pack intended for the 2017 LEAF. His car now has a greater range than it did the day it rolled off the assembly line, though as you might expect, the installation was more complex than it would have been with a contemporary battery.
[Daniel] has produced a kit that has all the adapters required to perform your own battery upgrade, including a module that translates the diagnostic signals from the newer battery into something the older vehicle can understand. With all the electrical bits simplified, all you’ve got to worry about is drilling the new battery mounting holes in the frame.