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CAN Newsletter magazine

Back to the future

A developer uses the CAN relays module Keybox from Blink Marine to conduct a massive I/O extension in fully electric cars.

The Mercedes Benz with Keybox from Blink Marine (Photo: Blink Marine)

Blink Marine sat down with Collin Kidder, a CAN protocol hacker and early adopter of the company’s CAN relay module Keybox. Together with his staff at K & K Manufacturing, Kidder has used Keybox for a project for the full electric conversion of a historical automobile: the 1959 Mercedes Benz 190SL. Thanks to Keybox and the Powerkey PRO 2600 keypad from Blink Marine, Kidder was able to extend the car’s capabilities. Now, in addition to a fully electric 47 kW engine, the car can boast evolved instrumentation including cruise control and a six-key CAN keypad.

The vehicle control unit uses an ARM Cortex M3 processor that has built-in CAN. It is helpful to use a processor where the CAN controller is integrated. This allows for a reception and sending of CAN frames without having to deal with external signaling to a controller. The SAM3X used in GEVCU (later more) has a fairly nice CAN controller with eight mailboxes and fully interrupt driven.

The keypad configuration (Photo: Blink Marine)

Kidder writes software/firmware for electric vehicles and reverses engineer existing OEM components so that they can be used in aftermarket conversions. For instance, the Mercedes project uses a UQM motor and inverter from a Coda car. The Coda company went bankrupt, but left behind a large stock of motors and inverters meant specifically for that car. He figured out how to produce the proper security responses and helped to write code to control the inverter. He has also gotten into doing the actual electric vehicle conversions.

Before he discovered Blink Marine, Mr. Kidder’s project he was working on was a 1959 190SL Mercedes Benz that was converted to all electric. He needed a good way to control things like lights and contactors. Since the car is an antique, it was very basic in terms of electrical connections. They just didn't have much of anything powered back then, certainly not 500 A contactors or pre-charge resistors. To accomplish his goal, Kidder used the Blink Marine Keybox to add control to systems that didn’t exist in the 1950's. Keybox helped him to add things to the car that the car wasn’t designed for.

If you want to read the full article with detailed information, you can download the PDF here or the full magazine.

Eliseo Boldrin (Blink Marine)
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Blink Marine