Q: What is an Alpha/ N ECU?
A: Alpha-N is not a brand or model of ECU: it actually represents tuning your fuel map referencing Throttle Position (Throttle Percentage) vs RPM.
The confusion for enthusaists starts when referenced in the E30 M3 community; "Alpha/N" usually refers to a piggyback fuel computer for the S14.
This computer programmed with a TPS Vs RPM map sends a signal simulating the AFM to a map on a software chip inside the factory Bosch Motronic ECU.
The Alpha-N piggyback systems have no live load-compensation and archaic tempature compenesation that may cause the car to require a retune with tempature changes.
Q: What is the idea behind the Alpha/N
A: The concept behind an Alpha-N piggyback is to let the end user eliminate the restrictive factory Motronic AFM, thereby increasing power output and throttle response.
Q: Will VAC ever sell an Alpha/N?
A: After some customers had requested Alpha-N tuning we had considered selling the conventional Alpha-N units. On further review and much feedback from our customers; we felt that rather than offering an outdated and expensive solution, we would attempt to offer a less expensive piggy back option with more features as well as setting our sights on finding an inexpensive Standalone ECU that met VAC standards.
This proved to be no easy task. The Alpha-N type piggybacks avalible had mixed feedback... While customers enjoyed the power gains under some conditions, they felt they traded some reliability, drivability, and consistency for this full throttle enhancement. They also were disappointed with the time it took to achive a proper tune even with a pre-programmed base map. If they lived in an area with seasonal climate change, they found the Alpha/N would need to be reprogrammed from time to time.
Rather than offer the traditional product that offers no safety measure, ignition control, or programmability outside of fooling the factory Motronic ECU. We decided after almost two years of looking to go with the KMS line of ECUs. They offer more features per dollar and unlimited potential. If you are interested in a fuel only controller like an Alpha-N unit but with more features, we do offer a KMS unit that starts at only $899.95, a significant savings over the obsolite Alpha/N system from Europe.
Q: I am on a budget, I heard that the Alpha/N is a good budget option, isn't this true?
A: This all depends on what features and performance you are seeking for your money. Here is a basic outline of the Alpha/N unit from Germany vs a standalone solution like a KMS or others:
-"Alpha-N" Piggyback Kit: $1000-1200+ Shipping from Germany
-Approximately 2-3 times the dyno time of a KMS system
-May have to have tune adjusted with change of seasons in some climants that have more than 25*F change
-Poor US customer support, limited support avalible from European
-No support outside of E30 M3 specialists
-Start up base map (should not be used for driving)
-Made for E30 M3 factory ECU
-Dash mounted shift light
-Example: KMS package for E30 M3 starts at $2100
-Full standalone unit, responds to any comand
-Diagnostics on board
-Varity of base maps requiring very little tuning
-Adaptation to any enviromental conditions/ temps
Usually running between $600-1500 more for install
-Standard Features like.....
-Base maps for S14s (2.3, 2.5, big cams, etc.),
-Complete engine management for up to 12 cylinders
-Wide band feedback with self learning
-3 auxiliary outputs (shift-light, water injection, electric cooling fan kit etc.),
-2 Engine load sensors,
-Gear dependent boost control, if turbo,
-VANOS control (if you decide to swap to an S52, S54, etc.)
-Billet Aluminum enclosure option with upgraded harness,
-Distributor-less ignition option
-In-car wide band lambda and sensor display,