eLabtronics Performance Modules

Posted on June 23rd, 2008 in Engine Management,Handling,Opinion,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

Despite having in the past worked for an electronics hobbyist magazine, and having played with electronics for most of my life, I don’t consider myself to be any sort of electronics whiz.

In fact, I am painfully aware of how little I know and understand.

But that’s one reason I am so pleased that together with eLabtronics, we’ve been developing a whole range of off-the-shelf electronic performance modules. 

Why their need?

Well, I’ve seen it so often. Someone will ask on a discussion group or in a car club for some simple electronic device. Like, they want to automatically turn on something when a certain voltage is reached. Or they want to flash a light. Or they want a simple timer.

Always – absolutely always – there’ll be an electronics whiz that will come out of the woodwork.

Say it’s the flasher that’s desired. The ‘whiz’ will say as fast as he can:

“Oh yeah. Just use a triple-five and a few passives.”

The person making the original requests always says: “Pardon?”

Then expert says it all again, although this time faster and maybe with a URL for a circuit.

The beginner is then likely to say something like:

“OK I think I am getting it now.

“So how do I make the flash rate variable?

“And did I say, I want to pulse the car horn. Is that OK? Will the triple five do that?”

The answer of course is: no, a 555 IC won’t be able to handle the required power. And neither will it like working in a car without any protection circuitry on its power supply leads….

In fact, for every ‘simple’ circuit request, there are always – but always – complexities that are easy to overlook.

So when I say that I started working with eLabtronics over 10 months ago – and the first product is being written about in AutoSpeed only this week – you get some idea of what goes into apparently simple designs.

Of course, the eLabtronics Multi Purpose Module isn’t just a flasher. Or a voltage switch. Or a timer. The same hardware will be able to do all these functions – and plenty more – just by software changes made by the company. 

Which brings me back to the beginning. In the past we’ve covered a range of DIY modules in kit form. They were (and remain) very good designs – but the user had to build them. And many people aren’t confident or happy building electronic kits where just one, apparently trivial, wiring error can stop the whole thing from ever working.

The new eLabtronics modules are fully built and tested. Courtesy of their microcontroller design, they also have far more flexibility and options than those previous kits.

The ‘expert’ quoted above will be dismissive. But the electronics non-expert, who just wants to do all those apparently simple things, will love them….

Which workshop will be the first?

Posted on June 9th, 2008 in diesel,Driving Emotion,Economy,Engine Management,hyundai,Opinion,Power,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

Here in Australia, major car modification workshops are generally well established. That’s said in the light of full knowledge that workshops come and go; but equally, others build a strong reputation and live on for decades. Some even span two or three generations of the one family.


I know that you can always find customers to denigrate any workshop, but places like Turbo Tune in Adelaide, Nizpro and Beninca Motors in Melbourne, MRT in Sydney, ChipTorque on the Gold Coast, and Romano Motors in Brisbane are longstanding workshops with good reputations.


And I wonder which Australian business – either these or others – will be first: the first to realise that there’s money to be made in specialising in a new-age of car modification.

Power and torque

Posted on January 29th, 2008 in Hybrid Power,Opinion,Power,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

torque-curve.gifThe (repeated) articles that we’ve recently run in AutoSpeed on power and torque are vital to understanding how to make your car go harder.

(The series can be found at Power vs Torque Part 1 –  and Power vs Torque Part 2)

And why is this understanding vital? Simply because people who use the terms ‘power’ and ‘torque’ often don’t seem to really understand what the words mean. The vital point to realise is that engine power is worked out by multiplying torque by revs.  And that’s the only way that power is worked out!

So an increase in torque at – say – 2500 rpm will mean a proportional increase in power also occurs at 2500 revs. It’s therefore just plain stupid to say “there wasn’t any change in the power curve but we got an increase in mid-range torque…” as some manufacturers of performance equipment state.

A bargain to be had…

Posted on November 27th, 2007 in Driving Emotion,Ford,Intercooling,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

xr6-intercooler.jpgRight now – and probably for the next few years – there’s a helluva bargain to be had.

I’ve bought one to put on the shelf and I highly recommend that anyone else into useable road performance does so too. And what should you buy? At least one of all those BA and BF Ford Falcon XR6 intercoolers that are being flogged-off on Australian eBay, commonly priced from about fifty bucks.

Yes, from fifty bucks.

Now maybe the people who want far in excess of the Falcon’s standard 240kW have an urgent need to replace these Garret-cored, bar-and-plate intercoolers with something far better, but for people who are happy to drive a car with performance not limited by wheelspin, these intercoolers look perfect. Being an all-welded design, they’d also be dead-easy to jacket with aluminium sheet, making them water/air intercooler cores. At a core size of 370 x 175 x 60mm, they’re relatively compact but have well-shaped alloy end tanks. For people wondering overall size, they’re 620 x 270 X 60 cm to the extremities. Inlet/outlet tube size is 58mm (hose ID).

Even if you consider the time and labour to fold up new end tanks from sheet aluminium and pay someone to TIG them to the original core, you’re still talking an excellent intercooler for the price.

The one I bought came with all its hoses and clamps – also very useful when you’re plumbing any intercooler into place.

Without having done any flow or temperature testing, but looking at the core and assessing the original application, I’d be happy running at least 200kW through them – more, eg 250kW – with a good water spray.

Turbo tech developments…

Posted on September 28th, 2007 in Opinion,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

speed-sensor-1.jpgBorgWarner Turbo & Emissions Systems has developed a new turbo speed sensor.

The eddy-current design is mounted on the compressor housing, with the end of the probe flush with the inside of the compressor cover. Designed to measure turbo rotational speeds from about 1000 rpm to 350,000 rpm, the sensor is non-contact and so wear-free.

A smart sensor that takes a 5-volt supply and includes internal electronics, the sensor body can withstand 180 degrees C and the exposed tip up to 250 degrees C. The sensor has a service life of 1.6 million kilometres.

BorgWarner suggest that a primary use of the sensor is in providing over-speed protection but the regulation of turbo speed by a feedback loop is another obvious application. As an input into the engine management system, along with temperature and ambient pressure, turbo speed measurement would allow the turbo to be run much closer to the surge line without danger. Bigger compressors and smaller turbines, allowing better low-down boost, would be the result.

Along with electric assist turbos the future of turbocharging looks bright.

One reason I don’t think much of the Type R Civic…

Posted on September 24th, 2007 in Handling,Honda,Opinion,Power,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

type-r-on-dyno.jpgToday I returned Honda’s Type R Civic to the Queensland office. I am quite happy to see it go: I think the Civic Type R is a pretty weak car – something I make clear in our road test that will appear in AutoSpeed in due course.

With a 2 litre naturally aspirated engine that revs to 8000 rpm and develops 148kW, it might look the goods on paper – but the reality is very different.

To go further, I think the idea that small, naturally aspirated engines can compete with turbo cars is the stuff of fairytales.

The Peugeot 206 GTi 180  and Ford Focus ST170 were similar cars in concept to the Type R Honda – all based around the idea that naturally aspirated, high revving engines have some intrinsic advantage over their forced induction competitors. That’s a purported advantage over turbo competitors that have more peak power – and vastly more average power through the rev range.

Where modified cars should be going…

Posted on August 24th, 2007 in Driving Emotion,Economy,Handling,Opinion,Power,Technologies,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

The other day a reader wrote in, saying how he was disappointed with AutoSpeed. Amongst other things, he said that there were plenty more powerful modified cars around than those we are featuring – all we had to do was attend some dyno days and go to the drags.

That we are no longer particularly interested in featuring typical straight-line drag cars, and typical horsepower dyno hero cars, hadn’t occurred to him.

I told him in my reply that AutoSpeed was (and is) changing in editorial direction; if he liked the Australian magazine Street Machine (he’d said in a previous email he did) I thought it very unlikely that he would like AutoSpeed, both now and in the future. Therefore, it would seem best that he stop reading AutoSpeed, rather than just go on being frustrated with us.

[Incidentally, this idea that if you don’t like us, don’t read us, seems to offend people. But to me it makes perfect sense: what’s the alternative – I encourage those readers to persevere, even though I know they won’t like what is coming up? To me that seems completely hypocritical.]

Anyway, I was reflecting on the reader’s comments, especially in the implication that more power is good – and even more power is therefore better. As I’ve stated previously, I think that many modified cars in Australia are heading in completely the wrong direction – they’re huge, hugely heavy, and hugely powerful. But rather than put this so negatively, let’s look at the issue more proactively. What makes for a good modified car? (And so, one that we’d be delighted to feature?)