August 2008

Production Notes20 Aug 2008 12:06 am

I was hoping I could avoid this announcement.  I had hoped that one of the potential Zilla licensees would have sealed a deal by this time.  Alas, it is not to be and so today I announce that Cafe Electric is accepting its’ last orders.

I am fully expecting that a licensee will step up to the plate and pick up the exclusive license for building and selling Zillas. Hopefully this will happen before we finish delivering this last build and we will have a smooth uninterrupted supply of controllers, but I cannot guarantee it and therefore have to start this shutdown process.

Sometimes you have to look out for your own health first. This is one such case. Those close to me know that running a manufacturing operation has not done good things for my health. I saw this coming and so have been trying to license the Zilla design for over a year. Unfortunately business is business, deals take time, people drop out. Fully hashed out contracts just awaiting a signature and a check, where agreement seemed universal, rot like old tomatoes on the vine.

Back in May I marveled at what I was doing with my life and made a promise to myself.  That promise was an escape clause from my stress and related poor health. The agreement was this: If I didn’t have a signed license contract with check in hand by late August, I would “Dissolve the corporation in a pool of Margaritas” (thanks to Steely Dan for that line). That time has come.

I may not promise much, but I stand behind my promises and that goes for those made to myself as well as my customers. So as of today, Cafe Electric llc will be accepting a limited quantity of orders on very limited terms. We will be selling -HV and -EHV versions of both Z1K and Z2K models direct through our website. All units ordered will be built in the order received aside from minor batch variances as we switch back and forth between 1000 and 2000 amp models on the production line. The units already on order will be finished first in accordance with the priority in place when they were ordered. Units will be shipped as they are finished. I expect that barring any major production problems we will be able to ship the remaining orders in about 6 months. New orders will not qualify for any discounts, need to be paid in full including shipping up front within a week of placing the order online by check, money order or wire mailed to us (avoiding Paypal fees) and need to be placed through the Cafe Electric llc website. We will continue to offer contactors and fuses as long as stock holds since those require less planning, but controller orders need to be nailed down during this limited window so we can order all the remaining required custom parts and build until we have depleted that inventory.

Warranties will be honored and are still good from a year after delivery. Someone will stay available to provide any needed repairs, warranty or otherwise for at least that time. Of course this is only a worst case scenario since I expect that a licensee will be online and take over any support issues.

The future still looks bright. I fully expect that one of the potential licensees will be producing Zillas and I will get back to EV product design that I know and love. Those un-implemented features on the Hairball, battery monitors, DC-DC converters etc. could all be coming to market while someone else handles production. I of all people am best aware of the demand for the Zilla and the lack of any high quality alternatives, so I am confident that it will continue to be available.

If you know someone qualified who is interested in the license to build Zillas please have them get in contact with me. The startup costs for a license, inventory and equipment are under $1M, and earnings are expected to be reasonable for the investment with good growth potential. The licensee needs to be experienced in efficient production of electronics, have the ability to provide basic tech support to typical hobbyist customers, have the financial means and ability to run such a company and be interested in growing the market.  Since the technical support aspects are much less than full time but still require wide knowledge it may make sense if this was shared with some other EV company.

For those trying to contact me, be aware that late August and parts of September find me out of range of communication for several weeks. If I don’t reply immediately I may be out of range and will reply when I return.


Zilla FAQ07 Aug 2008 10:06 pm

Q: Do your controllers work with Brushless DC / BLDC or AC Induction motors / ACIM ?

A:  No. The current Zilla controllers only work with brush DC motors such as the series wound motors that are used in most EV conversions.

I have made BLDC and Induction AC controller prototypes in the past for special projects, but will not pursue production designs until I feel the time is right, and I have the resources to do it. If you feel the time is right, and have over $1M handy for expediting the process then we can talk. If not, please don’t bother me or I’ll just send you a rude response of some sort for wasting time.


Zilla FAQ07 Aug 2008 09:32 pm

Q: What’s that sound when I start driving?

A: People variously report hearing a scraping, hissing or even sometimes a hum when they are driving slowly with a Zilla. This is perfectly normal for a Zilla powered EV and is not likely to be your driveshaft scraping on the body (though it could be that).

Due to speed limitations of high power electronic switching devices it is necessary to modify the pulse width modulation (PWM) of power devices in a way that has audio consequences. We could have made it squeal like some other controller manufacturers did, but decided that we found white noise more pleasant.  This is a noise made by the motor in response to the spread spectrum frequency modulation that it receives while the Zilla is in current limit. Since it happens while in current limit and when the motor voltage is very low this sound is usually only heard when the motor is turning slowly. The speed range over which it makes the sound is more pronounced in both single ratio and high voltage vehicles.