Where Have You Been? (the Standalone ECU Edition)
If you’ve been paying attention to Gas 2’s bylines recently, you’ve probably noticed a lot more Steve and a lot less Jo in recent weeks. That’s because Speedriven has been hard at work developing a bespoke “standalone ECU” solution for vehicle management. An ECU that would enable some of the most complex cars in the world to easily be converted to flex-fuel, ethanol, or even CNG applications. On the fly. And, a few days ago, Speedriven announced that they’d done it.
Speedriven / Syvecs Standalone Running SL65 AMG
That video up there is something that might seem mundane, but you’re looking at a successfully installed and operated standalone engine control system based on the Syvecs-developed S12 board. The system has been specially designed to “plug n’ play” into a highly complicated Mercedes SL65 AMG roadster with a level of systems integration that would fool even the most sensitive Mercedes drivers into believe nothing had changed at all.
So, what does that have to do with why I’ve been away? As some of you already know (disclaimer in 3… 2… 1…) Speedriven is my 9-5, so when they’re super-busy, I’m super-busy.
In the interest of Speedriven staying super-busy, then, I’ve included the “official” press release put out by Speedriven, below, along with a couple of pictures of what the prototype Syvecs-based system looks like running on the R230-style SL65 AMG. Enjoy!
Speedriven Standalone Mercedes ECU is Go!
Earlier this week, Chicago-area tuning firm Speedriven announced that it had successfully installed and operated a standalone engine control system into a highly complicated Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG roadster, marking the first time an aftermarket tuner has fully integrated such a system into a Mercedes-Benz.
The standalone solution Speedriven has been developing for their Mercedes-Benz and AMG customers completely replaces the factory computer, taking over the many demands of the cars’ engine and transmission while giving the tuner full control over all of the car’s systems.
Control is a key theme here, and- as we learned from the now-famous Pirelli ad, “power is nothing, without control”. The most iconic version of that ad campaign featured US Olympic track runner, Carl Lewis, crouched in a starting stance while wearing a set bright red stiletto-heeled women’s shoes. More than twenty years after Pirelli’s ad hit magazines, its message still rings true- but it’s not usually a car’s tires that are holding back its performance potential. It’s the limitations built into the car’s computers from the factory.
“It’s kind of ironic, really,” says Speedriven’s Jo Borras. “The car’s ECUs (Engine Control Units) have gotten so good that you can have a five or six-hundred horsepower daily driver that gets decent mileage and runs cleaner than ever, but the manufacturers have locked them down with so much encryption and so many safety nannies that the guys who want to convert their cars into race cars have to constantly fight the technology for control over the car’s systems. That’s where the real need for an independent, standalone solution comes from.”
“Take the newest twin-turbo cars from AMG,” continues Jo. There are a few guys out there who have put big turbos on these cars and really gone through the transmission hardware. They’ve spent a ton of money to make power- but their cars are barely any faster than the guys’ who’ve hardly done anything to their track cars. That’s because they’re limited by an interaction between the factory ECU and the transmission controller (TCU). The TCU is calculating torque on the fly- as it happens. Once torque reaches a certain level that’s been programmed in at the factory, the TCU sends a signal to the ECU to cut power that it is hard-wired to obey. That’s a bit of an over-simplification, but the idea is there. No matter how much you do to the engine or transmission, if you don’t have control over the electronics, all that go-fast hardware means nothing.”
That’s just one example of a major performance limitation imposed by a factory ECU. In addition to delivering the complete control necessary to push the envelope of Mercedes-Benz performance tuning, however, the standalone allows Speedriven to develop features for these cars that they’ve never had. These range from exciting features like launch control and rolling anti-lag to more mundane features like a push-button pit lane speed limiter.
The standalone control system allows radically different hardware to be utilized, as well. “If you change the final drive ratio on a V12 Mercedes with a factory ECU, you have to jump through a lot of programming hoops. Now, we can put a much stronger 9” rear end in these cars and not only change gears very quickly to accommodate different tracks, we can also bring the car’s electronics up to speed just as quickly,” says Jo. “That’s a game changer in the Mercedes tuning world- and it’s only one of maybe five or six game-changers that come as part of the standalone package.”
The first Speedriven-built car to heavily feature the standalone will be the latest version of the “Red Dragon”. That’s the same SL65 AMG Black Series clone that became the quickest V12 Mercedes-Benz in the world last year with a 9.97 second ¼ mile pass at more than 141 MPH. The standalone ECU will enable the SL to handle a variety of fuels, a heavily revised transmission and driveline, a fully built and blueprinted engine, and a pair of massive turbos that the company- and the car’s owner!- believe will bring an entirely new dimension of tuning possibilities to the Mercedes aftermarket.
Source | Images: Speedriven.