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Pre- CAN/OBD-II Lotus Elise/Exige – you CAN data!

A few days ago a customer asked if we could integrate with the OBD-II interface on pre-2008 ECUs on the Lotus Elise or Exige. Normally we’d say ‘sorry, not out of the box’, as 2008 was the year CAN was mandated on OBD-II. As it turns out from this post on LotusTalk, even the pre-OBDII/CAN Lotus Elise ECUs emit some useful CAN bus data on the OBD-II port, even though they won’t respond to regular OBD-II queries.

Electronic Gauge Cluster

Turns out, the ECU regularly transmits a CAN bus message to the instrument cluster packed full of interesting information. Available in this message is:

  • Vehicle Speed
  • RPM
  • Engine temperature
  • Fuel Level
  • Shift light status

The data is constantly broadcast to the instrument cluster, so it should actually be super easy to pick up and transform into virtual channels inside of RaceCapture/Pro.  So this weekend, I asked around if I could borrow a Lotus Elise for some CAN bus hacking. My friend David de Regt replied and on Sunday, he and his race-prepped 2006 Elise made their way to our Lab. Excellent!

Yes, that’s a long cable running to the OBD-II port

Lotus Elise CAN bus instrument cluster format

The data to the instrument cluster is broadcast on CAN id 0x400 (1024 decimal) with the following format:

byte   - info
01     - adjusted speed (A - 11)
02     - unused (always 0)
03, 04 - RPM (A * 256 + B)
05     - Fuel Level (0xFF = full, 0x00 = empty)
06     - Engine Temperature (A - 14)
07     - MIL (06 = on, 04 = cranking, 00 = running, 01 = shift light)
08     - unused (always 0)

The OBD-II to RJ45 cable plugs right into RaceCapture/Pro, supplying data and power. In this case, we extended it using a very long network cable extension. We were a bit worried about the cable length, but as it turns out, CAN bus supports 40 meter cable length at the 1 megabit transmission rate used in the Lotus network.  Yes, 40 meters – another reason why CAN is so kickass-robust!

RaceCapture/Pro MK2 on bench, Hacking CAN data from the Lotus!

Once we hooked it up to the OBD-II port we opened up a Lua scripting console right on the RaceCapture/Pro unit. A quick command immediately yielded a message:

> id, e, d = rxCAN(0, 100) --receive a message from CAN1; 100ms timeout
> println(id)

ID 1024 represented the CAN bus ID of the instrument cluster- Excellent!

So we probed further:

> println(d[1])

OK, Speed is zero, that makes sense since the car is stationary. what about RPM?

> println(d[3])
> println(d[4])

Now we’re getting somewhere!  So the formula for RPM is A*256 + B, so:

> println(d[3] * 256 + d[4])

855 RPM sounds about right!

So a full script to map all messages to virtual channels would look something like this:

--set the rate of onTick() to 10Hz

--create the virtual channels
speedId = addChannel("GndSpd", 10) --Ground Speed @ 10Hz
rpmId = addChannel("RPM",10) --RPM @ 10Hz logging rate
fuelId = addChannel("Fuel", 1) -- Fuel % @ 1Hz
tempId = addChannel("EngineTemp", 1) --Engine Temp @ 1Hz

function onTick()
 id, e, d = rxCAN(0, 100) --call with 100ms timeout
 if id == 1024 --did we get a valid CAN message from the cluster?
 speed = d[1] - 11 --ground speed
 rpm = d[3] * 256 + d[4] --RPM
 fuel = d[5] / 256 * 100 -- fuel %
 temp = d[6] - 14 --engine temperature

 -- set the virtual channels
 setChannel(speedId, speed)
 setChannel(rpmId, rpm)
 setChannel(fuelId, fuel)
 setChannel(tempId, temp)

A library of mappings (It’s open source, baby!)

Sounds hard? Don’t worry – we’ll add this script and scripts for other systems like Hydra, Megasquirt and more – ready for you to copy and paste into your RaceCapture/Pro configuration. As users contribute scripts you’ll be able to take advantage, tweak and re-submit updated versions for others to use. It’s freedom, baby!

9 thoughts on “Pre- CAN/OBD-II Lotus Elise/Exige – you CAN data!

  1. […] I'd have to learn more about how MS's CAN interface works, but if it can be configured to continuously stream CAN bus messages that would be much higher performance than the OBD-II style request / reply for PIDs. In fact, on Sunday we tapped into the instrument cluster stream for a 2006 Lotus Elise; here's a little write-up: Pre- CAN/OBD-II Lotus elise – you CAN data! | Autosport Labs […]

  2. […] from RaceCapture…………..I preordered mine this weekend! Pre- CAN/OBD-II Lotus elise – you CAN data! | Autosport Labs __________________ 2007 Exige mental track toy. 2005 Elise. "Listen up, I ain't Captain […]

  3. […] New product I am going to try. Not a bad price at all and I like the telemetry function. Pre- CAN/OBD-II Lotus Elise/Exige – you CAN data! | Autosport Labs Pre orders started Saturday. Should ship in November. __________________ 2007 Exige mental […]

  4. Will this work with the forthcoming RaceCapture all-in-one device?

    1. It certainly will, with RaceCapture’s native CAN mapping capabilities.


      1. Great. Can I add the legacy OBD2 adapter to additionally pull throttle position, or does it have to be either CAN or K-line?

        1. It would need to be one or the other. However, with the legacy adapter you’ll be able to pull all of the standard PIDs; they won’t update as fast as they would via CAN.

          Hope that helps!

  5. What I don’t see in this discussion is what steps I need to do to program my RaceCapture MK 2.

    1. Old blog post! We have the docs for RaceCapture/Track in our wiki, here: . We also have a bunch of how-to videos on our youtube channel.

      Barring that, feel free to join our facebook community, discord, or forums to ask your questions.


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