Project Car + More Thoughts on CANBUS

So we haven’t done a blog post in a while, and we thought we’d get into it today and make a new post on the site. Can’t let it sit here, gotta keep the brain ticking over and more info getting out there.

So we went to Pickles the other day, or more, in the Coronavirus times, we logged onto Pickles and picked up this:

She is a 2014 Nissan eNV200 Van, some tech specs for you:

Acceleration 0-100kmh14 Seconds
Top Speed123km/h
Battery Capacity24kWh
Charge PortType 1
Charge Power3.6 kW AC
Charge Time (0->110 km)7h15m
Charge Speed15 km/h
Battery Useable*22.0 kWh
Fastcharge PortCHAdeMO
Fastcharge Power (max)46 kW DC
Fastcharge Time (11->88 km)27 min
Fastcharge Speed170 km/h
Vehicle Consumption200 Wh/km
NEDC Range170km
NEDC Rated Consumption165 Wh/km
Rated Fuel Equivalent1.9 l/100km
Weight Unladen (EU)1614 kg
Gross Vehicle Weight (GVWR)2220 kg
Max. Payload681 kg

So that’s some pretty good figures, and upon getting home and charging her, she is telling me that she has 165km of range and 100% battery health. Though you would expect 100% battery health from something with only 12,000km on it.

Now the thing is here, this is a perfect platform for us, as the motor, controller, and charger are all there, and I could easily turn around and change out the BMS, change out the batteries, and get longer range and stuff.

All up, including the fees, we paid $6,400 for the setup, now a used Nissan Leaf Motor is currently going for around the $1,000-$4,000 mark and the batteries are going for around $4,600-5,800 mark.

So if I was to buy the battery and motor separately, I could be paying up to $10,000 roughly, and I would not have the luxury of an entire driveable car to play with.

This is important because I need to be able to see what the CANBUS does when the car is started, running, dirivng, etc.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, she drives!

Little bit of a clunk from the back end, though that could be because the suspension is literally snapped in half.

Dodgy photo, but you can see next to that back left tyre, the suspension is literally hanging in the air. I suspect that is where the clunk comes from when I hit bumps.

Anyway, when she starts up, she goes alright, nothing too serious to look at, videos are out of order, I actually filmed this one before the video above this one getting her off the trailer, however that’s not a big deal.

Anyways, after getting her off the trailer, there was a bit of stuff I had to do, so I didn’t get a good chance to look around her, but once I did, I filmed this:

After this, she sat for a few days, I managed to find the original owner on facebook, and was able to meet up with him in Brisbane. He told me the story that he went to a mates place, went to a party, and when he walked downstairs to go home, found that his car had been punted halfway down the road by something and there was police stickers, fire brigade stickers, and other stuff all over it, and his baby had been destroyed.

He’d personally imported the car from Japan earlier on in 2020 and had only just started his adventures in enjoying it. He was a bit disappointed at the fact she’d been munted, however was very excited to see that she wasn’t dead dead, and she would continue to live on.

Anyways, after a couple of days, work and stuff got in the way, I went to have a play to see if I could get the scantools to work on her. They don’t.

So from here, I needed a new scan tool, and I still haven’;t managed to get one. So (hint hint), if you would like to help me get a new scan tool, you can donate to our scan-tool and conversion fund by getting some merchandise!

So, after the scan tool playing, I was a bit disenfranchised with this all, so I left her alone for a while and eventually I decided to see if there had been anything left in the van. I found something!

So, anyway, enough about the van!

Let’s see what else we can do with the plan.

I have been doing some research on CANBUS, and I came across the gem of a video, which we posted up a few weeks ago:

I get that it’s a 50 minute video, and you probably won’t want to watch the whole thing.

Anyway, to get the CANBUS to talk to the project car, a Volkswagen, we’ve identified that the Nissan and the Volkswagen won’t talk the same language, so I will need to create a CANBUS bridge. So how will that work?

So anyway, I plan to use the Nissan Hubs, Engine, Brakes, etc. I’m essentially going to dual loom the vehicle. Run both looms in parallel and not cross them over. Each system will work independently.

So I’m going to find CAN plugs on both cars that I can bridge to and can see the CAN High and CAN low, and wire them up like this terrible MS Paint drawing I have done:

So basically anything that needs to be on the leaf side, will stay on the leaf side, and anything that needs to be on the VW side, will be on the VW side, and only the messages that need to go across will go across. So this means that message such as speed will come from leaf sensors, to the leaf ECU and run off the LEAF side, but will be passed across to the Volkswagen to be displayed on the VW Cluster.

So the VW cluster won’t be able to speak LEAF, and the LEAF can’t put of VW commands, so they need to be translated, think of it simply like the LEAF speaks Japanese and the Volkswagen speaks German, so the message of:

I am a Speed Sensor, I am reporting the vehicles current speed as 85 kilometers per hour

English Translation of the speed

Will actually come across the network as:


How the Nissan LEAF gear will say this

However at the tail end of that, the gauge cluster is looking for this all being spoken in German, it won’t care what anything else is saying, it will just ignore all messages that aren’t being spoken by the Geschwindigkeitsmesser (Speed Sensor), so I need to have the interface unit convert the message from Japanese to German to make it work. So I will need to output:

Ich bin ein Geschwindigkeitssensor und gebe die aktuelle Geschwindigkeit des Fahrzeugs als 85 Stundenkilometer an

The translated message that the Speedometer is looking for

Ahh, but the Volkswagen isn’t just looking for things like speed, for example one of the things the VW will need to know is something like RPM to know that the engine hasn’t stalled. Go out, jump in your car, and stall it. I’ll wait.

See how the Check engine light come son, that is because the cluster is looking for something like:

Check engineRPM
IF engineRPM => 500 DO nothing
Illuminate CheckEngineLight

So, to avoid that with an electric motor that can easily get down to 0RPM with no issues, in fact, that’s kind of the drawcard, you need to avoid illuminating that CEL. I’ll need to stick something in the interface unit to “spoof” or fool the Dash Cluster.

Check engineRPMLEAF
IF engineRPMLEAD => 500 SEND engineRPMLEAF to VW AS engineRPMVW
Send 500 as engineRPMVW

With engineRPMLEAF being the speed that is coming out of the Leaf Motor, and engineRPMVW being the encoded message in the VW format that the dash cluster can see.

However, we have an issue that the Volkswagen cluster goes up to 8,000RPM and that’s well into the redline, the LEAF motor is flat out doing 10,390RPM, so some adjustment may be in order to the signal, which is easy enough to do as max RPM of the VW = 8000 and Max RPM of the LEAF is 10,390 which is a 25.9924% difference. So I would just reduce the LEAF speed by 25.9924% and display that on the cluster. I know it’s not “true”, but it would work. It would still be “linear” which would work. Though you’d be easily able to correlate RPM with Road Speed as the LEAF is a single speed transmission.

The other type of stuff that we need to grab will be battery state of charge, normally displayed on the lines under the plug on the LEAF like so:

The blue lines indicate range, however there is a DTE coming out of the LEAF, so I should be able to take the State of Charge reading and convert it to a fuel level reading so the factory fuel gauge on the VW works as intended, and then the VW display should be able to take the DTE readout from the LEAF.

One thing that I may actually implement though is that the LEAF has a battery temperature readout, however it does not have any active cooling on the battery, nor any active heating on the batteries, so the battery will trickle charge until it reaches heat in the cold, or it will cut the charge if the batteries get too hot, and it can also go into limp mode if you are flogging the car in the heat. Now, my eventual aim is that maybe I would be able to implement a coolant radiator setup using the factory radiator in the VW to keep the batteries cool, and I can get heaters for the coolant so that when you plug it in, if the charge circuit is active and battery temp is less than a pre-defined temperature, it will heat the coolant to that temperature and pump it around the batteries. That may not go in the version 1 stage of the conversion, but it definitely is something that I intend to implement eventually.

Finally, after some digging, I found out this awesome little unit from Kayhan Audio, shoutout to them, I have their unit in my ute and it is an excellent unit that kicks the factory unit out the door.

SatNav For VOLKSWAGEN Jetta 2007 – 2018 | 11″ inch
Image Courtesy of Kayhan Audio Website at

So eventually I may even be able to write an app for that that I can use to control things in the car, as this unit is also on the CANBUS, and maybe I might be able to send CANBUS commands to things via the head unit, so a button that will preheat the battery, a button that will open the charging port if I want to automate the door, a button to activate the power mode, I might even be able to move the transmission shifter controls into the head unit once I figure out what they are. Eventually I should be able to reprogram that, or someone that knows how Android works, should be able to move almost anything I want into the head unit and make it work that way.

So yeah, that’s our long term plan, that’s the kind of stuff that we intend to do, and that’s where our project is going. Hopefully too if we can get all this kind of stuff sorted out, we will be able to provide this kind of interface unit as am off the shelf unit for you to do your own conversions with, or you can bring a car to us and give us a couple weeks, and we can make up this kind of system to suit your car.

Thanks for reading guys, and I hope that this was informative on what has been going on here at Harden Electric Vehicles!

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