Thursday, July 19, 2012

e-SUV Updates 1: More details about the project

So, people have been asking us for more information about the e-SUV. Yes, I know we don't yet have a project webpage, but we'll get there. There's too much to do and not enough time. We've chosen the SUV, it'll be a 1999-200x Opel Frontera (aka Vauxhaull Frontera, Honda Passport, Holden Frontera, Chevrolet Frontera, Isuzu Cameo, Isuzu Vega, Isuzu Frontier and Chevrolet Rodeo...). Why? Because it's the cheapest around here with good looks, post 1997 (for the OBDII-compliant ECU), airbag and ABS equipped and the engine is not so bad. We've already received the OBDII cable and we've tested a few. One of them was in so bad shape the OBDII cable couldn't even detect it and the engine sounded like it was crying for a coffin.
So, what are we planning on doing?
  • Removing the transmission, the clutch and everything directly attached to the belt;
  • Attaching a better alternator to the engine to provide sufficient power;
  • Replacing the wheels with hub electric wheels that can act both as motors and brakes (regenerative braking);
  • Adding batteries for a resonable duration of city driving between recharges to reduce the need to resort to the fuel-engine, but not too much that it completely offsets the weight reduction from the removal of the other parts;
  • Figuring out a mechanism so that the hydraulic brakes are used automatically as backup in case of failure of regenerative braking;
  • Making sure the power-steering is electric instead of pneumatic;
  • Adding a secondary ECU to regulate diesel engine acceleration based on several parameters to optimize fuel consumption (including slope, terrain type, proximity to curves - using data from navigation - etc.);
  • Replacing the instrument panel with a screen with information more appropriately displayed and additional information that helps the driver enjoying a more economic and safe driving experience (including detection of traffic signs, speed limits, etc.)
  • Adding a navigation/communication/multimedia console that fully integrates with the vehicle and controls everything else;
  • Adding a windshield-projected HUD - this one we still have to investigate further as we suspect the glass will need some special coating or treatment;
  • Adding more security features to prevent theft and safety features for emergencies (alarm, electronic engine locking, an Onstar-like emergency system, all sides parking sensors, camera based parking assistance, collision avoidance, road-radar, parking collison detection - so you know who and when someone ruined your car while you had it parked - etc).
This is what we intend to build... If we'll succeed, we don't know, it depends on the amount of funding we get.
Any more questions? Feel free to post them or send them by e-mail.



  1. Your project sounds very interesting. The wheel motors appear to be the key to your project, so that the original engine can remain in the SUV and power (via alternators or a generator?) the electricity for charging the batteries when they run down.

    Have you investigated hub motors yet? Several large car makers have announced that they are working on hub motors only to deny it 6 months or 12 months later.

    You mention a secondary ECU for the original diesel engine. So you plan to 'fake' the signals going to the original ECU and keep it 'running the SUV'?

    You must be looking at a very stable and safe system to drive your dashboard. It would be very scary to lose all of your dashboard at once due to a drive issue or a solid state drive vibrating lose.

    Other HUD projects have added a flat 'second screen' in front of the windshield that is tinted to allow the projected information to display brightly enough. In Canada it is against the rules to tint your windshield more than 4 inches from the top, so the second screen is a way around that.

    I look forward to your build and will visit the site often!

    1. The secondary ECU will mainly control the acceleration of the engine, so it might not be tied directly into the secondary ECU. However, there will be safeguards in place to make sure there is a cut-off when excess power is being produced. We are thinking of using the Freescale solutions for cars.
      About the HUD, we have a few choices. We could use one of those portable projectors (some use a LASER) and add a special coating to the glass, we could use a secondary glass screen like the one's on fighter jets or we could use the common LCD + mirror solution. We also thought of checking out some transparent OLED solutions but we believe them not to be ready yet and to be very expensive.

  2. A link to a DIY forum on hub motors, just in case this may interest you.