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SSC ECU Development

At Simply Sports Cars we have a team of engineers which are continuously developing products for the Elise and Exige platforms as well as refining old designs of our existing product lines we have been selling over the years. The one thing we are guilty of though is focussing too hard on what’s next before we actually let anyone know about the products which we have manufactured and why we went to the bother of designing them in the first place.

Anyone local to us in Sydney who has ever taken the time to come past our workshop could tell you that there is never a dull moment within the walls of the workshop. Due to an influx of questions by phone call and email I thought a post here about the history of our ECU development to help free up a bit of space in our inboxes.

The following is an explanation of the two ECU solutions that have been developed by Simply Sports Cars for the Lotus Elise and Exige.
The first generation was initially designed as a means to take complete control of the engine after we proved the potential of the TVS 1320 supercharger through a full season of racing in the Australian GT series. In comparison to prior seasons running with the factory spec MP62 charger we were staggered to see a 2.32 lap drop 15 seconds to a 2.17 at Bathurst with the same car and same driver. Unfortunately a custom wired Motec M800 wasn’t a viable solution to supply with the kit so we got to work on our first plug and play ECU system in conjunction with Adaptronic Engine Management Systems here in Sydney.

So in early 2009 we designed a “junction box” which split signals between the Lotus factory ECU which controlled the instrument cluster and DBW throttle and an Adaptronic E420C which had complete control over the engine and fans. After a lot of hard work and hundreds of hours spent on the project we were soon to find out this style of setup had several inherent issues which all boil down to the fact that there is more to controlling a car then just controlling the engine. The issues we had were as follows;

1. The factory ECU doesn’t know what’s going on!
Modern factory ECUs are extremely complex devices, with an amazing level of complex code and algorithms designed to achieve many things. The primary purpose of the factory ECU is to control all aspects of the engine and other vehicle functions on a standard vehicle. Even something as simple as idle control employs a complex series of control strategies far beyond adjusting the idle valve to maintain a constant engine speed when the vehicle is stopped.

The factory ECU is also designed with a complex set of internal diagnostics designed to detect problems with sensor and engine systems. All changes involved in implementing the aftermarket ECU (such as disconnecting the injectors from the factory ECU) will cause it to register a list of fault codes and illuminate the ‘check engine’ light.

In an effort to avoid this, the SSC solution incorporated a device to constantly tell the factory ECU to clear its fault codes. This prevents the Check Engine light from coming on but unfortunately it had a side effect that applied which meant because the codes were being constantly reset, the signals to the dash were being interrupted. As a result on one particular model of dash the speedo and tacho needles momentarily dropped to zero when a code needed to be cleared. Eventually an ‘interceptor’ module was developed and installed behind the cluster to permanently disable the ‘check engine’ light.

2. The factory ECU is still controlling the shift light
The factory ECU determines the correct RPM for the shift light to come on based on a number of conditions, such as engine temperature and whether any fault codes have been recorded. Since the factory ECU no longer has control over various functions such as fuel and ignition control it has registered several faults, and thinks it is putting the car in limp mode. As a result the shift light came on prematurely. At the time of development we didn’t think many people paid much attention to the little red light but apparently they do!

3. The factory ECU is controlling the idle (on Drive-By-Wire models)
On a Drive-By-Wire vehicle there is no separate idle valve. The ECU regulates the throttle body to admit the correct amount of air under a variety of conditions, such as during starting, to eliminate undesirable effects during gear changes, adjustments for additional loads such as air conditioning, and compensating for the volume of air in the intercooler. The engineers who design this system must also contend with other factors such as differences between models, environmental conditions, mechanical tolerances and wearing of mechanical components.

This had massive ramifications in several areas including;

• PID control of the idle is programmed specifically to the set of hardware your car has. Adding forced induction and an intercooler to a previously NA car means the volume of air behind the butterfly is completely different. The factory ECU is clever but its not designed to account for changes like this and as a result the idle speeds were uncontrollable and caused idle hunts and off throttle stalling. Even a change in flywheel weight was sometimes enough to upset the system. This was particularly bad while your engine temperature was cold and in the process of warming up.

• Pressing the pedal down to 100% throttle doesn’t give you 100% opening at the butterfly. Yep, it’s the inconvenient truth of the clever guys designing the performance packs back in the UK. The major performance difference (aside from injectors and pump) between the Exige S (220), Sport 240 & Cup 260 is the % opening of your throttle body. The 220 is about 80% 240 is 90% and only NA cars and the 260 get 100% when your foot is to the floor.

4. The installation is messy
Packaging space was limited for us so we designed the junction box with 2 looms that plug into the base of the 2 ECU’s mounted to the inside of the firewall next to the speakers. Trying to accommodate 2 ECUs and their looms in this space was always going to be a mess.
Additionally, the extra wiring and all the connections made between the 2 ECU’s and the junction box are all possible sources of problems which get very hard to trace if they arise.

5. Diagnostics are complicated
There are two ECUs controlling the vehicle. Neither one has knowledge of the other, and only one of them is programmed. To make matters worse, the factory ECU is capable of ‘learning’. So even if things appear to be working ok, the factory ECU has the ability to change its behaviour over time. It is trying to ‘correct’ for the conditions is sensing , e.g. where it knows the engine is not operating within its pre-defined factory thresholds.

6. Traction Control
We were at our limit in terms of inputs and outputs which meant if you had variable TC you were demoted to on or off, and if your cars wiring harness didn’t have the on off button already then you couldn’t add it to your system

7. Manufacturing was complicated
You shouldn’t need to know how easy or hard it is to assemble a product, as long as it does its job. But for us the logistics in assembling this product in conjunction with the other drawbacks meant that only a handful of these were sold to customers who weren’t buying it as part of our TVS kit. And this is probably why you have never heard of our first design

The Plug in Performance Solution.

With our first generation of ECU system we designed, manufactured, implemented and learned a lot. We learned a lot in the manufacturing and testing but we learnt all that and then some during the countless hours of tuning we did on all kinds of hardware variations. With what we learned and a better idea of what you wanted we hastily got to work on what is our current stand-alone Plug in Performance (PIP) ECU.

All the information is out there but in summary we tackled these issues head on and came up with a system which;
• Negates the need for the factory ECU
• Has complete control of all styles of instrument cluster including user definable shift light RPM.
• Has complete control of the DBW throttle, meaning we can tune the car to start, idle and drive like a factory spec car, additionally there are significant gains to be made from the 220 & 240 Exiges. Even with their current hardware.
• Installation is easy as the entire unit fits right where your old ECU was
• A data port in the car gives drivers and tuners direct access to USB tuning, CAN network, Serial Data in (for wideband lambda control), Serial data out and a headphone jack for the cars knock sensor.
• Variable TC for everyone as standard which is adjustable on the fly. For cars with the black dash the slip % will also be visually updated on the dash LCD.
• Extra auxiliary outputs
• TMAP sensor input for those cars which don’t already have it in their loom.
• Flex fuel input for cars which want to run any mixture of petrol and e85

And as always our system is continually evolving. We recently implemented the Motec CDL serial protocol so that we could offer it as one form of logging solution. We are also working on other enhancements to the system which will be released in due time.

For anyone interested in further information on the systems feel free to contact us at any time or contact our distributors.

Monkey Wrench Racing in USA or TDI PLC in Europe
 

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This ecu solution sounds great...but I have a few questions
1.Does it support speed density operation and if it does...what MAP sensors are supported?
2.Are there pre configured injector options and are you able to input injector latency tables?
3.Are there any anti lag features?
4.Is there a pwm output for boost control and is speed or gear based boost targetting available?
5.Does the software offer any internal or pc logging with map tracing during playback
6.What is the resolution on the fuel and ignition tables?
7.Does it support any 0-5v inputs that are configurable?
8.What kind of knock control functionality does it have?
9.The desription mentioned flex fuel capability....what kind of ethanol content sensor is supported and what kind of compensation tables are offered for varying levels of alcohol?
10.Is the software available to download?

Thanks
 

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This ecu solution sounds great...but I have a few questions
1.Does it support speed density operation and if it does...what MAP sensors are supported?
2.Are there pre configured injector options and are you able to input injector latency tables?
3.Are there any anti lag features?
4.Is there a pwm output for boost control and is speed or gear based boost targetting available?
5.Does the software offer any internal or pc logging with map tracing during playback
6.What is the resolution on the fuel and ignition tables?
7.Does it support any 0-5v inputs that are configurable?
8.What kind of knock control functionality does it have?
9.The desription mentioned flex fuel capability....what kind of ethanol content sensor is supported and what kind of compensation tables are offered for varying levels of alcohol?
10.Is the software available to download?

Thanks
Yeah what he said!! :D
 

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PIP Standalone ECU - Lotus Elise Exige 2004-05 Cable Throttle
[SSC-PIPECU-DBC] $2,595.00


The easiest and most powerful tuning tool available for your 2004-05 Toyota-powered Elise or Exige at an outstanding price! Suits cable throttle models.

Complete replacement for the Lotus factory ECU. Plugs right in to factory harness, mounts in place of factory ECU.
Provides full programmable control over all original ECU functions. Tune fuel, ignition, VVT, VVL, idle, rev limiters to suit your modifications and needs.
Factory dash, ABS, immobilizer all function normally.
Driver-variable traction control via included knob
Works with stock narrow-band or aftermarket wideband (sold separately) O2 sensor.
Flex fuel capable with addition of fuel sensor.
Does not have OBD2 functionality.


The PIP ECU is the ultimate tuning solution for your Lotus. Whether your car is very lightly modified, pushing 500+ horsepower or anywhere in between you can get it tuned in and see significant gains with the SSC PIP. Turbos, superchargers, larger injectors, alcohol fuels, this ECU does it all. The side expansion port even has additional outputs for a 5th injector and turbocharger wastegate control.

Tuning is accomplished through a USB cable which you simply connect to the included communications panel which is mounted conveniently inside the cabin in your choice of location. Adaptronic's trusted tuning software makes tuning easy no matter what kind of setup you've got.

Be sure to include a complete list of modifications as well as your car's model year and model in the comments field so we can configure the unit properly and load the most accurate base map.
 

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I fitted one of these about 6 months ago and am very happy with it. I have a Rev 400 setup with low comp pistons and a 75 mm pulley (16 psi boost) This was really well sorted and Phil's backup is excellent. My car is a daily driver so it has to have good manners, no stalling etc.
When I took it to to get tuned on the dyno he was able to get more torque throughout the rev range except at cam change over where it was the same. He managed to get 45whp over the refashed stock ECU.
I am an absolute newby at tuning (give me a pair if Webers or Dellortos and I can do something). Anyway I love having the ability to have control over things. I can set my redline where I feel comfortable. I have my fans set at 93 and 96 C and it stops it overheating while waiting "on the line" at comps.
Two things to know, you lose OBD 11 function and it needs to be mounted about 1" left of stock location with the Rev setup as it fouls the "Elephant neck"
 

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I agree with Richard. Its the way to go if you are continuously adding engine modifications. I am a happy customer.
 

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I agree with Richard. Its the way to go if you are continuously adding engine modifications. I am a happy customer.
I think most of us over here in the US are more worried about the tuning because we don't have much in the way of options with tuners
 

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Discussion Starter #9
This ecu solution sounds great...but I have a few questions
1.Does it support speed density operation and if it does...what MAP sensors are supported?
2.Are there pre configured injector options and are you able to input injector latency tables?
3.Are there any anti lag features?
4.Is there a pwm output for boost control and is speed or gear based boost targetting available?
5.Does the software offer any internal or pc logging with map tracing during playback
6.What is the resolution on the fuel and ignition tables?
7.Does it support any 0-5v inputs that are configurable?
8.What kind of knock control functionality does it have?
9.The desription mentioned flex fuel capability....what kind of ethanol content sensor is supported and what kind of compensation tables are offered for varying levels of alcohol?
10.Is the software available to download?

Thanks
Hi Casey,

Thanks for some excellent questions. I am told you are the pioneer of forced induction when it comes to the 2ZZ Lotus.

1. The system works exclusively from a MAP sensor, not an airflow meter. Of course the most common MAP sensor is the TMAP sensor factory fitted to all supercharged Lotuses. If the car remains NA then a GM-style 1-Bar MAP sensor is the best option. We can supply the sensor and necessary wiring. When we supply a supercharger upgrade for an NA car we include an intercooler with a factory (Bosch) 2.5 Bar TMAP sensor already fitted.

2. Yes. Injector latency data is very important for a road car, where drivability is a high priority. This is less of an issue for a track car where peak power is the main concern. The system includes an injector dead time table. But for really accurate fuel delivery, we have implemented detailed injector characterisation built into the ECU firmware. We have done this for the Injector Dynamics ID1000 and the Deatschwerks 750 injectors which we typically supply.

3. Anti-lag for a turbocharged engine has been implemented by Adaptronic. In fact the owner of Adaptronic runs anti-lag on his road car! I have not been involved in implementing / testing / evaluating this on a Lotus yet. But it can be done.

4. Yes, there is a PWM output for boost control. Simply Sports Cars specialises in supercharging 2ZZ, but we didn't forget about turbocharging. Yes, it is possible to set target boost by gear.

5. Yes, you can log to your PC at a relatively fast rate. There is no internal logging. For a track car, we recommend the Motec CDL3 Track Kit. This features GPS, and analysis using the i2 software.

6. We configure fuel and ignitition maps in 300rpm increments and 13kPa increments for forced induction applications.

7. There are no spare analog inputs to the ECU (unless you don't want the variable traction control knob). But if the purpose is for logging, there are multiple analog inputs on an aftermarket dash, e.g. the CDL3.

8. Knock control is a topic worthy of its own entire thread. Yes, we support knock detection and therefore closed loop ignition control.

9. We support the GM flex fuel sensor manufactured by Siemens. Fuel and ignition trim tables are available based on RPM and load. There are also fields for cold and hot cranking enrichment etc.

10. Yes, you can download the "Select and e420c software" (WARI) from Downloads | Adaptronic - Take Control

Best Regards,
-Nick
(Development Engineer at Simply Sports Cars)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I think most of us over here in the US are more worried about the tuning because we don't have much in the way of options with tuners
Perhaps I don't fully understand the concern, but so far we have found that any tuner competent with aftermarket tuning solutions is able to configure the system correctly. Simply Sports Cars offers support should any questions arise.

Regards,
-Nick
(Development Engineer at Simply Sports Cars)
 

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I agree with Richard. Its the way to go if you are continuously adding engine modifications. I am a happy customer.
^ What Brian said ^

Plus as it is an ECU , and not just a tune or flash, then in theory the tunes can be shared around much easier. Most tuners may not want that, as you could get a tune that was in no way appropriate for the engine, but also you should be able to get dozens of tunes which are the same as your engine's spec.

And you are also not locked to a flashes and tunes which are lock and proprietary.

This is a "no brainer", if you are doing mods incrementally.

Even Nascar is going to ECUs, and a locked ECU is about as useful as a distributor or carburettor.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
^ What Brian said ^

Plus as it is an ECU , and not just a tune or flash, then in theory the tunes can be shared around much easier. Most tuners may not want that, as you could get a tune that was in no way appropriate for the engine, but also you should be able to get dozens of tunes which are the same as your engine's spec.

And you are also not locked to a flashes and tunes which are lock and proprietary.

This is a "no brainer", if you are doing mods incrementally.

Even Nascar is going to ECUs, and a locked ECU is about as useful as a distributor or carburettor.
Yeah, reflashes and programmable ECUs are worlds apart. If you are starting with a perfectly stock car, and make a specific and limited modification (identical to what the reflash provider intended) then a reflash might be acceptable. Even then, the car should be run up on a dyno to make sure. But what if the tune isn't right? The tuner can't just correct it.

With a fully programmable solution like the Simply Sports Cars PIP ECU the provided tune should be checked and adjusted by a dyno tuner. The result will be exactly as the tuner intended. Typically the tuner sees no need to 'protect' their work since it applies to that one car only. Even if it proves to be suitable for other people's cars they still need to have theirs checked on the dyno unless they are willing to take a big risk with their engine. The role of the tuner is still part of the process so they don't need to protect their tune.

Regards,
-Nick
(Development Engineer at Simply Sports Cars)
 

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I was talking to the guy who tuned my car yesterday and he recently tuned an Exige running the VF stage 2 setup. He was able to get an increase in torque throughout and an increase of 35whp with this ECU. He explained to me that with all the reflash solutions they have to be very conservative with the timing so that all the different setups that the kits will be running will be safe. So they have to pull some timing and this costs power.
Only a custom tune with a good tuner can get the ultimate in power and safety.
 

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Thank you for the link, but I am not interested in a flash tuner. I would only consider that unit if I was nearby the actual tuner, and could hire him out for dyno tuning. Last time I used a flash tune over the internet the engine blew. :facepalm
 

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This is not just a flash tuner. You, or a tuner of your choice, can tune the car on the fly without any other intervention. Not sure what your missing here.
This is far more capable than the SSC unit. This also allows you to be emissions compliant.
 

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Evan 60 you constantly speak nonsense.
Nonsense?...nothing nonsense about it. He was simply pointing out that there is a solution that can do everything this unit can, is self programmable, and can be emissions compliant with no check engine lights.

Perhaps your response was a bit of a knee jerk and not well thought out
 
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