2 weeks ago my 2013 Q210 Zoe refused to charge anymore. At the beginning it was like only sometimes and worked again after a few tries, but rapidly this behavior change to “not at all”. So I tried what I was able to:

  • Let the car sleep for a while and try again.
  • Charge the 12V battery.

… but nothing worked out, so I ended up visiting the national dealer here in Luxembourg. Things over here are still a bit complicated because – for now 8 year already – we have one and only one person that is allowed to touch the high voltage parts of electric cars at Renault. This meant I had to wait 3 days before getting their verdict: the charger needs to be replaced!

After some fast calculations and the question about a new car or not, I ended up giving them my consent to replace the charger but with the condition that I want to get the old one back ๐Ÿ˜‰

You see right, they replaced the entire block, including the filter unit and the cable to the charge port with even the plug lock motor, although I am quite sure that only a very specific part is malfunctioning. Ohhh … you are right: having to pay 3700โ‚ฌ, this was a quite expensive replacement, but at least my car now charges again. (I got a Twingo as replacement during 2 weeks … uhh … ahh … it’s a nice small car with which you can make a u-turn anywhere, but that’s the only positive thing a found about it …)

Some changes I have noticed:

  • The charging process starts a lot faster compared with the old charger. After connecting the cable, the “ongoing checks” takes only about 2-3 seconds, which is about 10 times faster than before.
  • The buzzing during the charge process is not as loud.
  • Although my battery health dropped from 102% to 98% after the invention, the range at the end of charge is about 20km higher than before and I’ve noticed that the battery indicated do longer drop very fast on the first half. The magic 98% hints that the battery computer was reset and/or updated so it has to learn how to calculate a reasonably accurate range again.

Warning: this is a geek post pertaining to the CanSee dongle, not CanZE, nor the ELM style dongles.

In the CanSee design we’ve specified the SN65HVD23x chip to translate the micro-controller’s logic levels to the CANbus. The beauty of this series of chips is that it runs on 3.3 volt, thus requiring no level shifting and only one supply rail. As reported earlier we’ve seen many bad chips though. Lately I have been involved in a commercial project and we selected the same chip for the same reason. To make a very long (debugging) story short, faulty chips bit us again, and these were sourced through a reputable PCB manufacturer. I also received a few chips from a friend and again, one was bad. Either there is a huge manufacturing problem, or there is a massive batch of fake chips on the market, or these chips are extremely prone to damage.

This problem has been haunting us for well over a year now and after wasting many, many hours again sifting through chips, re-soldering, messing with the firmware, and countless other botches, the camel’s back has now definitely broken. I am changing the public design to set the DC-DC converter’s voltage to 5V, use that to supply the development board AND the alternative transceiver chip (an NXP TJA1050). I’ll also add two resistors to level-shift the signal from the transceiver to the ESP32.

While working on the ZE50, we found a silly bug in the CanSee firmware. If…

  • you have a ZE50
  • you build a CanSee dongle
  • you want to be on the bleeding edge on the CanZE beta’s

… please update the firmware as soon as possible. You can find it here.

Gรถran Nybom reported on the issue tracker that the Vgate iCar 3 ELM327, which at least seems not to be some no-brand-with-always-changing-guts dongle, works fine. Price seems fair (20-ish), and it’s smaller than the KONNWEI which people might like.

This is no endorsement, we don’t have one, but if you do, please comment with your results, so we can update the hardware page. Or send it to me ๐Ÿ˜‰

Edit: unfortunately, the one I received did not support the ATAL command and contained a main controller with a scraped off top marking. So unfortunately, I cannot honestly recommend buying Vgate, at least not from Aliexpress or Ebay. it seems that these are carbon-copied too. Well, the shell at least.

https://i0.wp.com/cdn11.bigcommerce.com/s-0dvqh/images/stencil/1280x1280/products/465/3810/icar_3_gb__74039.1425597854.jpg?w=918&ssl=1

Before you read on: this post in not an endorsement whatsoever. We stick 100% to our advice to either build a CanSee dongle if you want fast&furious, or buy a KONNWEI 902, as that is about the only dongle that is a fairly stable build for fairly cheap.

Having said that, as a sort of fun/silly experiment stemming from the “Use ISOTP fields” mode I wrote about earlier, I decided to order the absolute cheapest dongle I could get, and ended up with a usual “blue transparent case” model for under 2 Euros.

Guess what, it has a decent PIC processor, external EEPROM, Bluetooth 4.0 chip, and an Atmel (Microchip) CANbus transceiver. This is not some hacked together crappy thing with half baked software in the spare capacity of some Bluetooth controller. And here comes the unbelievable part. After some tweaking, I got it running with CanZE. I literally had to change two lines of code in the development branch. Which I will have to cross check with my KONNWEI dongle of course. I was honestly flabbergasted.

Although the last picture of Raplh’s Zoe Plugin has a make-like flair, he didn’t stop there and even installed some led indicators using a NeoPixel strip.

a perfectly fitting cover
a look above the cover
the NeoPixel’s are shining through the cover
easy to plug out
Start it up ๐Ÿ˜‰

Thanks to Ralph for sending me pictures of his Zoe plugin, which is basically a CanSee dongle that exactly fit’s into the car. But take a look at the pictures yourself.

the bottom layer
the solder side
ESP32 installed
gluing the ODB connector
all connections in place
the installed plugin