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

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

  1. Right Lane Cruiser

    Right Lane Cruiser Penguin of Notagascar

    Honda's hybrids would undoubtedly benefit from the prismatic cells used in the Prius but the company cannot get any because Panasonic won't sell them. Panasonic and Toyota have a deal and it leaves Honda out in the cold... which is why Honda has put in a lot of effort to get in on the bottom floor of lithium battery manufacturing. The next gen Civic Hybrid will use lithium batteries and those should improve the situation markedly.
  2. Harold

    Harold Well-Known Member


    I do not do much city driving so this may be why I have not had a power problem? I also don't have SOC dropping too nothing for no reason and then forced charges! So far I have been lucky. A couple mths. ago I did sell my Honda CR-V and I picked up a 2006 X lease return Prius with only 19,000 kilometers on it at a very good price. Very nice auto. I do find the Fit and finish of my 2006 HCH 2 much better than the Toyota. The HCH is a more sporty drive. Toyota is more Cadillac feel? The Prius give much better FE when driving normal however. HCH requires a very lite foot at all times, as you probably know. H
  3. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk 2010 Prius (CAN Touring) Staff Member

    I'd agree with Harold, having just made the switch to Prius. I don't regret it, not for a second, but I can see areas where Honda is ahead. I like the Honda Civic Hybrid's dash better: it's simpler, more intuitive, and it's ergonomics are better: everything is at hand and centered on the steering wheel. The Prius has a glorified oscilloscope, off maybe 20 degrees to the right...

    I like the manual shifter better than Prius's shift-by-wire joystick: Uh, how do you put it in Neutral to roll out of the garage without firing up? While a tachometer is overkill, I miss having one in the Prius. D.O. for the Civic's rudimentary coolant temp gauge.

    My wife was driving our old Civic Hybrid this morning (it's "traded", but still in the family), while I did a run in the Prius to get snow tires, and she remarked wistfully how it it just feels/handles nicer. Still, it is not night/day for these items, and the Prius shines for me with it's much more robust battery, and how it can really shoulder much of the load, drive electric from stops, occasional short forays in EV mode, and so on.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2010
  4. OldMan58

    OldMan58 Member

    Hi Mendel,

    Not too difficult: turn the key into maintenance position (until you see the dashboard lights and instruments coming up) but don't start yet. Put the car in Neutral and let it slide; at about 7 mph the power steering and power breaks will kick in (not hydraulic but electrical assist). HCH II is like any other car that uses the key to start the engine.

    With cars like Prius (start by pushing a button) this may not be possible -- I never drove one.
  5. OldMan58

    OldMan58 Member


    I wouldn't call HCH capable of sporty drive because it is a bit underpowered (especially, if you have my problem). But, I agree, handling is better than Toyota's.

    I enjoyed my old CR-V (2000) handling as well despite of its small engine (2L/147HP). The FE was also reasonable for a compact SUV; not like the new CR-V that seems to feel sluggish while not offering a good FE. My daughter liked it as much until the day a careless truck driver running a red light smashed it (nobody was hurt). At 180,000 miles and after this hit, the CR-V was a write off. The whole family regretted that car.

    This is why I feel so upset by the latest HCH issues after the firmware upgrade. The car just drove beautifully before. You are right, you really need a light foot for HCH - but this is valid more or less for any car that you plan to hypermile :)
  6. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    HI Mendel;

    To back up without firing the ICE? Quite easy actually with two ways to choose from:

    1- Select R and start reversing but switch to N within a few seconds. The car will continue to reverse without firing the ICE.

    2- If the temps are not too cold and the SoC allows (among a few other conditions), put in in EV mode BEFORE switching to R, then just reverse all the way down. Keeping the speeds below 16 KM/h will allow you to drive all the way out of your neighborhood in this EV mode.

    I agree on the tachometer. For a car that still derives 100% of its motive power/energy from the ICE the Prius should always sport a tachometer. Sadly it still does not include one... which would be instrumental especially in very cold temps or when the ICE must run. :(


  7. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Because of the more sophisticated and fully independent suspension, the HCH-II will always provide a sense of handling and "sportiness" that is better than what is offered by any Prius.
    Yes, given its focus on environmental performance rather than the old definition of 0-60MPH performance, the HCH-II cannot and should not ever be called sporty. Just sportier than hybrid X or Y. ;)

    On the subject of the software updates: I know I've said many times, both on this forum and over PM's and emails, but here it goes again:

    I would humbly ask for patience regarding the updates. These updates are very VERY critical and we should let them run their course in order to achieve the desired effect. To put it bluntly, these particular updates (or a milder form of it) should have been deployed much earlier in the model's life cycle since as many of us have been saying, the original BMA was way too liberal to be sustainable.

    In fact, in addition to asking for patience I would also urge you to help the software do its thing faster and better and you'll see things slowly improving. In the unlikely event you do not see a slow but observable improvement then your pack may need to be replaced. That will happen but only after you've given the software a fair shot.
    Here are some of the things we've been suggesting that may be within reach of many:

    1. When stopped at a red light and the vehicle is cold, thus idling, place the transmission in L. When accelerating, keep the setting in L until you reach no more than 12 KM/h.
    2. When slowly climbing an incline with speeds of 12km/h or less, place the transmission in L as well.
    3. Try to induce a hidden regen by modulating the accelerator pedal under light throttle and/or turn on the headlights.
    4. If you have a scangauge plugged in, then unplug it when leaving the car parked for more than a couple of hours.
    5. Try to park the car with a good SoC especially if you are not driving it for more than 1 week. One way to ensure it is done right is to perform a power reset just before parking it away.

    While some of the above will certainly impact your FE, it will still perform much better than a comparable gas only Civic especially when the above is done correctly. In the long run I believe it may be worth the trouble for those of us who find it within reach.


  8. OldMan58

    OldMan58 Member

    Hi MSantos,

    I had the firmware upgrade in the summer when Honda issued the recall. It is true that for a few months I drove short trips (<8 km) in my area while working as a consultant. For such short trips I did not expect good FE but it wasn't actually too bad either. This is why I didn't worry too much. In October I got a different job at about 35 km from home -- this is about the same distance I used to drive for about two years when the FE was great.

    I have to admit that the hilly terrain in Vancouver must have stressed the battery more than driving on a flat. I expected that the battery is weaker and with the cold weather it is even weaker (the battery theory says that capacity decreases with temperature). I partially blocked the front grille to help the engine warm up faster but with the record low temperatures (-5°C to -10°C) for Vancouver these days, it takes about 5 minutes in the morning and 10...15 minutes in the evening to get the engine above 65°C. It pays to have a good garage :)

    In addition to the above, I have winter tires and, yes, the controversial firmware. BTW, I'm a firmware/software engineer and we screw things up from time to time, then we try to find a quick fix to save the face of the company :eek:

    As consequence, I'm getting 45...50 MPG in the morning and 40...45 MPG in the evening. Should I be concerned? Maybe, maybe not. I'm willing to give it a chance because I really enjoyed driving this car. And it is fully paid for ;)

    Interesting suggestions. Especially placing the transmission in L when idling in cold. Over the time I tried D, N, FAS and I couldn't come to any conclusion -- maybe because the climate in Vancouver is usually mild, with temperatures above 0°C and up. Never tried L.

    I used L when climbing hills - it is logical. I'm used to manual transmission from the my European driving experience -- not too many automatics there. So, I'm simulating a manual transmission as well as I can when really necessary. However, as I mentioned before, not even L helps me with the sluggish start uphill that happens since the upgrade. This is my actual proof that the battery management is different favoring the ICE more.

    As for the Scangauge, I'm sure it will make little or no difference because the device enters in standby mode drawing less then few mA. Actually, a low discharge current is good for the 12V battery, especially in the winter.

    I agree with you, even in the current conditions I'm doing better than some colleagues that have standard gasoline Civics. The last tank was about 48 MPG (or ~4.9L/100km). The current one looks like 44...45 MPG (much colder weather).

    Thank you for your advice. I'll see what happens the next few days. It seems that we may have a day of snow, followed by slash and back to the good ol' Vancouver rain.

    Kind regards,


    P.S. I guess you are laughing about my complains of cold weather - from where you are I definitely look like a whiner :D
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2010
  9. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi OldMan58;

    Given the circumstances as well as the other setup attributes for your car, your mileage certainly appears to be in the normal zone. So , unless you want to further optimize your MPG achievements I would say there's no much to worry about.

    But... please note the context under which we offered those recommendations. They were meant to assist the June 2010 software update in one of its primary goals and that is to optimize the SoC levels and therefore contain or reverse battery pack deterioration.

    Again, just to make it very explicit to our HCH-II community, the suggestion that we switch the transmission to L is only applicable to the conditions and reasons I mentioned and not for the purposes of deriving more power from the engine as doing so is just one more way to create more emissions and waste more fuel.

    Also, it helps greatly that we perform the above also in conjunction with our constant urging for owners to seek to minimize electric assist as much as possible.
    Yes, this means we'll finally be able to do what our DMV's, driving schools and law enforcement have been asking us to do all along... and that is to drive more defensively and therefore be safer drivers on the road (just what our hypermiling toolkit is good for). :D :p:p:D

    Regarding the scangauge:
    While standby current leaks (however miniscule) is something some should be more worried than others, scangauges have indeed been found to simply wake up on their own even when the vehicle is completely "powered off".
    Additionally, we have also found that under some circumstances, the mere presence of a scangauge at power-up is enough to place one or more subsystems in a managed or even fault mode. This has become a significant issue particularly with the June 2010 software update. Weaker or marginal charge on the 12V batteries have also been found to increase the chance of this problem.

    We are therefore cautioning our HCH-II owners that if they develop a sudden "problem" to first perform a power reset sequence and keep the scangauge unplugged BEFORE contacting your dealer. While I do indeed love the scangauge - as it is a truly wonderful device - raising awareness to this issue is also of critical importance since it can cause a lot of frustration and loss of time diagnosing something just isn't there.


  10. hunter44102

    hunter44102 Well-Known Member

    I took a 300+ mile trip Sunday/Monday.Mostly 65mph driving. On the way there I was at 46mpg and the way back was 53mpg. (Actual was probably 48/55)

    It might have been the elevation/headwind, but by the end of the trip, the battery was doing much less charging.

    So when the charge level goes from 4 bars to 2 and starts charging, is this a re-cal, or just a forced re-gen? (I never see 3 bars anymore, it always drops from 4 to 2 when battery is low)
  11. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    I am glad you asked this question.

    First off, let us recap the basics of the IMA architecture: An instrumented recalibration procedure (invalidation of the SoC and subsequent aggressive charging) is a built-in process and when evoked does not mean something is wrong with the car. Furthermore this is natural function of aging, so if these happen now and then it is regarded as being OK. If they happen too frequently then it makes sense to have a closer look and see why the systems are dwelling in managed mode more often than they should.

    Now with the June 2010 software updates the rules have changed and so have the instrumented limits. Additionally, there's very little about these updates that would constitute an error or miscalculation on the part of Honda's engineering support team. In other words, despite the bad reception the updates received by some, the software is doing exactly what it must.

    So in response to your question I will simply state that the SoC dropping from 4 to 2 bars represents the new forced regen procedure and technically, it no longer qualifies as an instrumented recalibration. That in addition to the other changes the software delivered, is how things should have been from the beginning and in my opinion, how they should remain going forward.

    Not coincidentally, that is how it always worked on the Prius as well as several other hybrids I have had first hand experience with.

    Finally, for those of us who have been cursing at the software update ever since it was applied:
    Please do look at the software update as a critical component of an "urgently needed" recovery process. Yes, some will dispute the need for this update by arguing that the car might have been running better before the update but, the car was certainly running on an unsustainable basis (as Honda had observed). Like any good medicine that does not shock the patient straight into death, it will take time and it is not without some side effects. Obviously, we are also saying that while things are expected to improve for the vast majority of HCH-II's, they will never be as they were... and that is actually a good thing since in my opinion, the original BMA was totally unsustainable.


    Last edited: Nov 24, 2010
  12. flyer351

    flyer351 Member

    I appreciate all the feedback you give the group as the dealership staff simply doesn't understand this update at all when asked. A couple questions for you.

    - Are there any links to technical documentation so we can learn more about this update?
    - I only received 2 or 3 forced recals in hot weather over the past three years and now experience 2 or 3 a week in cool weather with the update. Would it be fair to say this is the software trying to drive all the NiMH sticks up to identical top-off voltages?
    - My problems arise if I park with 5 bars on the battery at work. When I leave for the night my routine includes 2 miles of gently climbing acceleration to 55mph... which is usually enough to drop the charge to 4 bars followed quickly by 2. So, can I induce a forced recharge the last couple miles of my drive by turning on the headlights to get up to 6 or 7 bars before parking? I didn't realize the DC draw would force charging beyond the demand levels.
  13. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Jeramie;

    You really nailed it.
    While I fully appreciate the dealerships and their good work, I am always reminded of the challenges they face on a daily basis especially when they are really at the end of the technical chain.
    To make matters a bit more frustrating for them and the owners, they often have to deal with intermediate contacts at Honda that are also in a position of knowledge deficit because they just pass the information along and can't explain much beyond what they were provided.
    Just asking these front line people if actually drive these cars should be a good test of what I mean. Shockingly, its like contacting your computer tech support company and speaking to an agent over the phone that rarely uses a computer.

    Anyway, the technical information and details you likely seek can be accessed via a subscription (afforded mostly by larger dealers) or by having some personal contacts with field personnel who actually know the details you seek.

    Yes, the software's prime directive is to reduce the SoC deficit conditions as much as possible and to err on the side of prevention. There could be smaller discrepancies on individual cells or even sets of cells within a module and the software is going to slowly attempt to coerce the charge levels up while minimizing the chance of dangerous conditions (like polarity reversals).
    As an example of a common problem: Not-so-good cells of lower capacity can in practice, reverse polarity if current continues to flow through them while the adjacent cells are already well charged (because of their higher capacity). So the idea is to avoid conditions of chronic SoC deficit by insisting on mildly higher charge levels. These also have to be achieved without inducing thermal run-away conditions due to overcharging on good cells or cells of lower capacity. This is a VERY, VERY delicate balance.

    Some packs will obviously not be able to show much progress when compared to others and at some point they may need to be changed. Honda will likely replace those in due time and after the software has had its chance. But, for the vast majority we hope that this "rehabilitation" process will show good long terms results without the need for pack replacement. Again, only Honda will determine this on a case by case basis.

    Yes, you can help the system do its job better and more effectively. Frankly I do this on my Prius as well by forcing the ICE to run when I deem is most appropriate instead of it deciding to it at the least optimal part of my commute. I can do that because I know what's ahead but the car does not. On the HCH-2 there are a series of things you can do to raise the affinity to regen - turning ON the headlights is one that also works very well too.


  14. racer

    racer Member

    I got P0A7F on my 06 HCH II couple of days back and dealer replaced the IMA battery today and flashed the ECU to latest version (B10-034 2006-08 HCH), my car has about 64k miles on it and I have been hypermiling from very beginning.

    I have about 10 mile commute in urban area so the average I could get is about 46mpg without AC. I will know next week if the new battery and ECU flash made any changes in FE.


    When I drive usually the car goes into regen when I coast to red light, and just before I stop the car with brakes the regen is at full with all bars green. I have been reading on some articles here where they say we have to keep amplitude of regen and assist to low, controlling assist is possible, but how can I control the regen (with all green bars) that happens when I am about to stop at a red light?.

    Can you please elaborate on how to keep regen low while stopping?.

  15. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Racer;

    Sure. It is all about defensive driving: You know, the type of driving our DMV's, driving schools, insurance companies and law enforcement have always been recommending?

    To help, there's nothing better than to read-up, understand and put our CleanMPG hypermiling tool-kit of techniques to good and safe use.

    In this specific example: Use the DWB technique as often as possible and plan your stops and decelerations. First, according to your defensive driving needs. And second, to that of the traffic surrounding you. Do this in the right-most lane and always allow some room for the typically fast and furious to do their thing on the left most lanes.

    In other words, if you see the lights changing ahead make sure you begin to gently decelerate well ahead of time. By doing this you save way more fuel by not racing to a red light and you also moderate the regen so that the amplitude of the charge rarely needs to go above 3 bars. The lower the number of regen bars over the longest amount of time, the better it is and the more energy you recover with the least amount of waste and brake wear... and your battery pack will thank you too. :D

    The other side effect doing this, is that while everyone else on the road will race to the red light, you in the other hand will be slowly coasting or gliding to it and there's a pretty good chance they'll trip the green light before you arrive to the intersection... and this way you avoid a costly stop. Stop-n-gos are fuel economy killers worth avoiding.

    You can apply this anticipatory driving to many other instances with jaw dropping results and as a result your overall FE will definitely surge way above 50-55 MPG.


  16. racer

    racer Member


    I have been using the exact same technique for almost 4 years now, I anticipate red lights (I even know exact timings of ALL lights between house and work) so I know when to slow down and when to accelerate, my summer FE is over 52mpg for 10 miles between house and work with over 11 red lights.

    my issue is how do I make regen goto all green bars just before I come to complete stop?. It's 2 or 3 bars while I approach the light, but maybe 10/20 yards before actual stop it goes into all green bars when I depress brakes to get to complete stop.

  17. Harold

    Harold Well-Known Member

    Slow down! H
  18. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Hi Racer;

    If you've been in a good coast or glide the regen graph should not max out unless your final speed is still too high.
    As a matter of fact, if your final speed is adequate then you'll actually see the regen drop and even cutting out completely long before the Auto-stop threshold of 7MPH is reached. ;)


  19. racer

    racer Member

    hmm, I guess I will have to try going slower, but I already annoy enough drivers driving at 40 in 45mph zone.

    FYI:with new IMA battery and flashed ECU I got 53.2mpg for 10mile trip, outside temp 50F, stopped at 5 of the 11 lights. SOC was 4 and stayed the same. If it makes any difference, my front tires are mostly bald.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  20. msantos

    msantos Eco Accelerometrist

    Indeed. And no matter how we look at it, defensive and safe driving will always annoy and anger those whose values and objectives often violate the law and common safety recommendations.

    Personally, my overall objective remains to operate my vehicle within the limits granted to me by the privilege of driving and in full adherence to the law.... and certainly not what the other motorists want or expect me to do, either for their convenience or their state of mind.

    Of course, vigilance and anticipatory driving attitude also remain the best way of avoiding accidents, but in the unlikely event that we get into one, it is somewhat comforting to know that you hold a definite higher ground with the procedural certainty that only a safe hypermiler can account for. ;)



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