MIEV Minicab – software for looking at state of battery etc.
50 years ago I had a Mini Cooper, and it came with a speedo and fuel gauge, an ammeter and an oil pressure gauge. I added a voltmeter (this car had a dynamo – not an alternator), and I wanted to put a vacuum gauge on it, a sort of performance gauge that measured how hard your engine was sucking, and how much air you were letting in. Back to the present, and my Nissan Leaf has so many options on the menus on the dashboard, and on the entertainment system, I have no need of any extra instruments. Leafspy is very useful for looking at battery state and other things.
The Miev is at the opposite end of the scale. The dashboard has a speedo and a fuel gauge, a bunch of odometer and trip meters, and a remaining range meter. Around the outside it has a power gauge, which indicates how much electricity we are using or regenerating, the modern equivalent of the vacuum gauge.
A lot of other information is available, but only through third party means. These all use apps on a smart phone, which communicates by Bluetooth to a dongle, called an OBD2 adapter which plugs in the OBD port (on board diagnostic) which is connected to the CanBus. The Canbus is what everything on the car uses to talk to each other, such as Engine Control Unit (ECU), Battery Management Unit (BMU), Cell Monitoring Units (CMU), the air conditioning control unit, the water heater control unit, the On Board Charger (OBC), the Dash Display and its controller, lights, Motors, Air Con Compressors, Steering, Brakes and a few other things.
Leafspy is the app I use on the Leaf, and the only one I require for it. There are a lot less Miev Minicabs and iMievs on the road, so the apps are not quite as good or as useful.
The first app most people discover is called CanIon, CAN because it communicates with the CanBus, and ION because it works on the Peugot ION, the badge engineered version of the Mitsubishi iMiev. It also works on the Citroen Zero and the iMiev, and obviously the Minicab Miev. A great app, beautiful display, easily found and used. It has a problem, or rather cars that use it can have a problem. It was developed on an older version of the iMiev, which used a whole bunch of CanBus parameters to find the information required. In order to be fast and efficient, it was written in such a way as to read only the parameters required, and expects all the parameters to be found. Unfortunately, Mitsubishi changed the Parameter IDs (PIDSs) for the cell voltages and temperatures in 2015, causing CanIon to break, no cell voltages or temperatures can be found, so a good portion of the functionality becomes useless. In addition, because these 176 PIDs cannot be found, eventually CanIon throws a wobbly, breaks communication with the vehicle and starts trying to reconnect. My van is a 2017 model! I still have this app on my phone, mostly because it is pretty.
The next app I and others tend to find is OBDZero, OBD because it uses the OBD port, and Zero because it was written for the Citroen Zero! This is, or was a much lower spec app. All data on the PIDS is available on a long text screen, which is actually longer than a screenful! But it is there, and readable if you are persistent and careful. Later versions are starting get a bit more graphical, with screens for power usage, battery state and other collections of stuff. This app recognises that the PIDs for cell voltage and temperature are missing, and puts up a meaningful message if you try to look at them. However it does have a couple of fields for Max and Min cell temperatures, and Max and Min voltages, which actually cover everything I need from Cell voltages and Temps- while the battery is still good. So OBDZero has been my go to app for a while now, especially on long drives when I need to monitor the battery temps which tend to go too high after a number of fast charges (no active cooling on the Minicab Miev).
Recently the State Of Health (SOH) of the battery was added as, along side the SOC. The rest is all a bit difficult to use, or unnecessary so I ignore a lot of it.
Car Scanner Pro
The third option is to use a generic OBD2 app, usually written for use on Petrol cars, with a slight amount of support for EV features. I looked at a few of these but none were really worth leaving on the phone. Then I started getting issues with Tritium 75kW chargers being incompatible with the van, and on completion of the charge, causing an error code to be set on the van, which put the van into Turtle mode. Once I figured out with the help of Thomsen Automotive in Petone that the code could be reset easily, I started looking for an OBD2 app that could reset codes on the MIEV. Eventually I happened upon Car Scanner Pro. Not only does this reset error codes, it has a vehicle profile built into the app which means it can recognise most if not all CanBus parameters on the iMiev. It is not a straightforward app to use, connecting to the car is similar to any other Bluetooth device, but once connected, clicking on the All Sensors on the top right of the home screen will give you an idea of what is available.
I have been playing with this app a lot lately, and it is starting to grow on me. Today I found out that it can actually tell me the individual cell voltages in the battery (not the temperatures though). The PIDs changed for the 176 parameters from the BMU (Battery Management Unit), but the battery on the MIEV is actually built in a number of groups of cells. Altogether there are 10 groups of 8 and two groups of 4 cells. Each of these groups has its own CMU, which communicates with the BMU through the CanBus. So each of the cell voltages are available directly from the CMU rather than through the BMU. So today I knocked off 4 custom Dashboard screens in Car Scanner Pro to display the 88 cell voltages on my phone. The good news is, none of the cells vary by more than 5/1000 of a volt from any other. I also have a screen for the battery status in general.
I have been researching the air conditioning and heating system on the van, and found it is actually a lot better than it has been reported on Facebook groups etc. So I put together another custom dashboard to show the power being used to run the air conditioning compressor or the heating element, and to show the air temperature out of the unit, and the water temp at the input and output ports of the water heater. Very useful, and I will do a separate post on this subject.
Car Scanner Pro has one other advantage, for those of you who have left the dark side and gone over to the “shiny white box”. Yes this app is available for the iPhone. I do not, never have, and never will possess an iPhone or any other Apple product (although I did occasionally fix and maintain them in my days in computer repairs which is why I will never own one), so I have no idea how well it works or how to go about setting it up. But of the three apps above, its the only one which is not restricted to Android. The Leaf Spy app is also available on the iPhone, but only the paid for professional version
Hardware and software
Best bet if you want an easy life is an Android phone (I use a Ulefone Power Armor 14).
Get a half decent OBD2 dongle. I use an OBDLink LX, which is a Bluetooth device. I had to buy mine overseas, so cost about $70 a few years ago, plus delivery. This device auto shuts down when not in use, so if you have a weak 12v battery and leave your car for a few weeks, you can’t blame the dongle.
Here in NZ and also in Australia Jaycar do a generic dongle which works quite well, it is getting a bit expensive now, but it is available in a bricks and mortar shop if you want it today.
All 3 apps can be downloaded through Google Play, just search for Canion App, OBDZero or Car Scanner. If you want a hand finding the iPhone version, ask someone who cares.
If you don’t know where the OBD2 port is on a Miev Minicab, it’s in the driver’s footwell, on the side of the air conditioned in the middle of the van, quite high up and out of sight.