Latest batch of software updates for the HCH-II (June 2010)

Discussion in 'Honda Hybrids' started by msantos, Jun 21, 2010.

  1. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Folks;

    As some of you are aware, I have been driving around with a fresh batch of software updates for a little while now. This new batch was quietly released into the channel a few months ago and for the second time since then, I received the very latest version of the combo just a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I did not report on this earlier since we expected a new set of updates soon after.

    Also, I said "batch" as they appear to be applied as a complete unit and the word is this batch must be released in this fashion. I have not received any additional details on this but judging from the many mistakes dealers make I see this is the safer approach.

    In the picture below, I provide the part numbers for these updates in a customer receipt as you would get it from your dealer since this will be as close as it gets should you seek to have these applied to your HCH-II as well. Owners of 2010 models already have these updates applied from the factory.


    While I cannot go into too many details, I can safely say that the latest updates appear to be very promising as they encompass a fair amount of sensible governance that has since been made evident from data and other feedback from the field.

    So what has changed from the perspective of driving dynamics? At first glance not much until you start dipping into the regular charge-regen cycles.

    Here's a list of the major changes thus far:
    1. The "normal" SoC window has been extended and shifted downwards a bit. This means that usual forced regen will not begin until there are less than 4 bars of SoC. Yes, you read correctly.
    2. When at 5 or 4 bars (the new medium level), the SoC at these levels will be much longer lived than before giving the impression that the battery pack now holds significantly more charge than before.
    3. Charging to 8 bars is now much harder. In fact, of the few normal forced change events I have incurred, the regen sequence often drops off at just 6 bars rarely ever reaching the 7 bars.
    4. Instrumented re-calibrations (SoC dropping to 1-2 bars then force charging to 8) have not occurred since the updates.
    5. There's generous amounts of electric assist still available when the SoC is between 1-3 bars. I performed a few power resets to verify this.
    6. No ill effects have been noted and at first glance, the overall MPG experience remains relatively identical... however and upon a closer look, the numbers I've been getting hint at a slight measurable improvement. I need a larger data sample to be absolutely sure of this. So far it is at least as good as before.
    So... Should you get these updates?

    If you are like me then, YES. So far, it seems like a nice package.

    However, please be advised that Honda Canada (and maybe Honda USA) may require that the owner report "issues with drive-ability "before these updates can be released to the average customer. In the end it may depend on how good and accommodating your dealer is (remember that "good will" I've been talking about, well Jack it is time to cash it in ;) ). In other words, if you have a good relationship with your dealer(s) then by all means give it a shot.

    Also, these updates were performed free of charge, but I still expect to pay for them since I am past the 3 year warranty on the vehicle. Again, check that with your dealer before trying to force any hands.

    Finally, please remember that as with everything else, your mileage may vary. What I report here is based on the information that is provided to me, my own experiences and the privilege of following-up on the progress of a local pool of corporate HCH-II's for a good measure of certainty. Nothing more.

    One other thing I would like to mention:

    Its come to my attention that some HCH-II owners believe Honda has been releasing updates for the purpose of masking potential or eminent failures. Frankly, I find this rather disturbing since I do not know what information these folks base that on.
    And since I "Eat the dog food I advertise", I get frequent software updates perhaps even every single iteration of them and I have yet to see any evidence of such allegations. :(


  2. kristian

    kristian Well-Known Member

    Do you have any idea if those are Canadian specific part numbers like the last go around, or if they are global?

    Regarding your last comment, I would say that the last US software upgrade (TSB-0958) incorporated logic for a "soft recalibration" that I have noticed happening many times over the last year. Instead of dropping to 1 bar, it now drops to 3 bars quickly. I can understand the thought that this is "masking" the problem because it is not going into a full recalibration. However personaly, I appreciate this as I still have some assist instead of having no assist in a full recalibration scenario.

    I still think that Honda is attempting to fix a hardware problem with a software solution. I would really like to see some cell by cell diagnostics on the battery packs of those of us who are having frequent recalibrations. I feel strongly that my pack has one or more cells that are not in balance with the rest, and that is the fundemental reason why I have recalibrations more frequently than the average HCH II owner. Honda can develope software that can better deal with packs that are not properly balanced, but is that really fixing the problem? I would argue that it is not....
  3. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Kristian;

    I don't have access to the US tech channel so I still cannot tell if these are exclusively Canadian only part numbers or not.

    I suppose different people will regard these software updates very differently and that tied in with one's own experiences leaves the door open for all sorts of interpretations and even outcomes.

    Also, there is no question that the current deep chaining of cells (as in too many cells per module) makes it a bit dicey to monitor, detect and contain a deficit. This is something that Honda knew it would have to keep an eye on as the units aged and the readings finally started pouring in. That is in part, why these software updates are so important since they give the larger owner base a chance to leverage this ever improving software baseline.
    Yes, some of us are going to be the statistics and ultimately the instruments for this feedback, but a robust hardware only solution would be impossibly more expensive - as it was for the earlier Insights and HCH-I - and still not allow a greater spectrum of manageability for something that is truly very complex.


  4. hobbit

    hobbit He who posts articles

    Six or even twelve cells per monitoring block is *always* going
    to present a certain risk. Same with the Prius. Fortunately
    those cells seem to stay well-matched over the long haul.
    The "set" of updates makes sense, as all those different ECUs
    have to talk to each other and have certain expectations to create
    the right kind of driveability experience for the pilot. It's
    just a little disturbing that thinking more deeply about this
    took them so long. Surely they did a ton of their own testing;
    nobody noticed the issues most complained about back then??
  5. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Al;

    Honda has been releasing software updates for the HCH-II since January 2006. The model was introduced in the fall of 2005. In reality, this is the first Honda hybrid to be designed with widespread software upgradeablility in mind which represents a significant shift ownership experience and related maintenance.

    One thing that seems to elude many people is that the HCH-II is in several areas, a far more complex system than it appears and this is particularly evident even when it is compared to the elegant simplicity of the HSD architecture.

    Because of this, I cannot fault Honda at all in taking this all-out-software approach as it left the door open for continued improvement with the least amount of cost. In contrast, I have yet to receive a single software update in any of my Prius and even though there are still a few things that annoy me greatly, Toyota is unlikely to release an update for those. In fact, the only software update they released for my 2010 Prius is one I definitely do not want at all. :(

    Still, even though my experience with my HCH-II has been bullet proof from day one, I have always regarded these frequent updates as insurance and added value to my ownership experience.


  6. hunter44102

    hunter44102 Well-Known Member

    thanks for the info Msantos. are these officially available to all dealers now? I may try to get this done during my vacation in a couple weeks.
  7. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Hunter;

    If past experience is any indicator, it may take a little. At least in theory, it should be already available to any able & willing dealer with an active technical subscription.


  8. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    MSantos, any ideas as to why Honda is so tight-lipped about these software updates? I mean, I've heard of (and had installed) one update, that I was notified about via recall notice, for improvement of the protection of the IMA battery terminals. This was in March 2007.

    Since then nobody from Honda has never approached me and said "hey, your software needs upgrading". If these software upgrades could benefit all owners, say improving performance/mileage, extending battery life, or whatever, then why is it you have to be in-the-know, and/or have serious IMA issues.

    This whole disconnect, coupled with an ongoing lack of 2010 Civic Hybrids (at least in Vancouver, I've checked with several dealers), has me wondering regarding the future viability of the model. Obviously no model and permutation (the Accord Hybrid for example) goes on forever, it's their perogative to pull the plug, but I don't like the secrecy.
  9. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Mendel;

    I am quite sure they have their reasons and on that front we could speculate on quite a few.

    In a matter of speaking, we could also be potentially breaking new ground and if you're a company like Honda you'll do so with caution since it is a lot easier to generate bad press than good.

    For instance: As it has been shown, this software update process does not always result in success for everyone. And you know what some people will say when an update does not work (in all likelihood because the dealer likely skipped a pre-requisite step)? Often, the dealer will not openly admit fault and the customer is left frustrated and nursing a bad experience of the process. That is why dealer training and competency is so important in ensuring success at this early stage in the game and the truth is that many dealers have a long way to go on this front.

    Furthermore, I don't think there's an easy way to classify these updates in a way that will not be misinterpreted by the general public. Some folks will be reasonable and understanding of the value these updates offer while others will be outraged and challenged by the concept and dependencies it entails.

    As it has been largely the case, these updates don't always infer on the safety of the vehicle and as such many would not consider them as critical. Also, what do federal safety organizations have to say about these software optimizations? Is the manufacturer obligated to provide them or should they just be silently released to the channel to be used on a demand/case-by-case basis?

    From a more personal perspective...

    As I intended to make the best use out this car, I stuck to the program from day one and all along I've often recommended the same to those in the community that feel comfortable with the process and potential value it offers. This does not have to be a frustrating process if you have a good dealer that you can trust and support.

    Finally, I suggest you don't read too much into the 2009-2010 thing as Honda Canada is following its own schedule. What I can confirm thus far is that any new units arriving to dealer lots in my area are freshly produced 2010 models and not 2009 left overs or re-allocations.

    Lastly the HCH-II model is not going to die just like that. Yes, Honda would prefer to build and sell more Insights as these are cheaper to produce and the margin of profit is higher. The achieles heel of the Insight-II is that in Canada it is not much cheaper and despite sporting a hatch it is technically and operationally inferior to the HCH-II in many critical areas.
    Another way to look at it is that the HCH-II will remain the most sophisticated, best performing and most ground breaking Honda hybrid until the next generation arrives. Until that happens, these software updates are the closest thing to a free upgrade.


  10. Sledge

    Sledge I like owls with captions

    Maybe this will fix my slow accel problem at low charge :eyebrow:

    I'm beginning to think IMA is still a beta level system and we're all QA testers.

    My next car will be a Prius or FFH. I'm done with Honda.
  11. kristian

    kristian Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't hold your breath on that one--unless the new software has a hidden supercharger.

    Personally, I love IMA--I like it a lot more than the Aisin-based system in my MMH for every type of driving except stop and go traffic (which we rarely see). I just wish Honda had better battery management and a more reliable transmission. If that were the case, I would still be saying that the HCH II was the best car I've ever owned. As it is, the HCH has been an interesting and mostly positive ownership experience, but I'll trade it for an electric Focus or a Leaf the day my warranty expires....
  12. hunter44102

    hunter44102 Well-Known Member

    I have the same slow accel issue at low charge. It wouldnt' be such a big deal except its happening more often, especially in city driving. Most of my driving is hwy but when I do city driving it happens at the worst possible time (entering the hwy on an uphill entrance!)
  13. ematzen

    ematzen Well-Known Member

    Same problem. Always seem to be on a recal when I need acceleration. Serious flaw in my book. I don't need to break any speed barriers, but I do need to safely merge onto a highway.
  14. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    I fully understand.

    However... perhaps this is also a case of the "grass being greener on the other side" at least until we finally jump the fence and step on it. After owning Toyota and Honda hybrids for a number of years and having had a reasonably solid ownership experience with both, I am still not ready to completely drop one in favor of the other yet.
    Maybe hanging around a Prius only forum for a good while should help frame things more realistically. Can't say much about Ford though since I have not "owned" one lately. ;)

    I would say your case qualifies as a drive-ability issue and given the results I've observed thus far it is my belief this set of updates could help.

    I would inquire with your dealer to see if they can flag this package for you under whatever part number/designation it goes by on their system.


  15. hansonclan

    hansonclan Member

    I got the latest updates last week, when I took my car in to complain about the frequest recals. I got three updates. The first one (125517) looks just like the ones in MSantos' post. The other two were 125517A and 125517B.

    Now I have extended forced charges / recals every time I drive the car - very frustrating. I asked the dealer if he could revert to the previous software version - he can not.

    My car was great up until a couple of months ago, when it started warming up. Even last summer I only had recals about twice a month. Then I started getting them almost every day, and sometimes twice a day on my commute to work and home. It was getting out of control so I took it to the dealer and was relieved to see there were three updates to my software that I hoped would fix the problem.

    It didn't.

    Now, every time I drive the car for any distance I get a recal. It looks different than it used to though. Now, I get a forced charge and the SOC stays at 5 or 6 bars for quite some time. After several miles of forced charge, the SOC gradually starts decreasing to 1 or 2 bars, then after more miles of forced charging the SOC goes relatively quickly up to 8 bars.

    Also, when it's hot on my commute home I only get two bars of regenerative braking, as if it's being limited.

    So, the recals/forced charges look different with this new software, but I'm spending a lot more time charging than I used to. Since my service last week, I have been spending almost half my driving time charging the battery - prior to the new software it was maybe a quarter of the time. And up until a couple of months ago, a forced charge or recal was a rarity.

    The next step is to take the dealership's shop manager with me while driving to observe the IMA behavior - haven't set that up yet.
  16. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Yes, they are right about the inability to roll-back these updates. It can be done, but that requires that the targeted module be replaced with a new one.

    Good plan. Hopefully they will resolve your issue without additional delays after seeing what you have to put up with.

    Let us know how it turns out.

  17. Harold

    Harold Well-Known Member

    Well I have had only one software update on my 2006 HCH2 and that was last fall. My Fe dropped from 5.6 ltr. per 100 kilometers down to 4.4 ltr. per 100 kilometers average. The IMA is being managed to perfection.[as far as I'm concerned] After SOC drops to 4 bars hardly any assist, but above 4 all the assist you need. I find my HCH2 has very good performance. I have never had problems with lack of power. When I get # around 3.2 ltrs. per 100 kilometers, my smile is from ear to ear. :DH
  18. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Harold;

    And here I was thinking of myself and the local HCH-II base in my city as isolated from the greater online community in terms of our experience with these cars. :D
    Nice to see that you too are having such a big grin which clearly shows this is not a "Manitoba" thing only. :p

    However, I am quite sure I got every single update released since delivery. I should look it up actually but, I am positive that I got well over 12 to 14 of them in the last 4 years.


  19. Harold

    Harold Well-Known Member

    Hi msantos:
    I don't think I want anymore updates. They may screw it up!
  20. Sledge

    Sledge I like owls with captions

    What an idiotic design that you can't install older firmware. The motherboard in my PC can do that.

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