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.


7 Responses to “Shutting down production.”

  1. on 20 Aug 2008 at 1:26 pm Lawrence Rhodes

    I hope you do what is right for you Otmar but I feel a little stupid for not getting my truck project off the ground. Looks like it’ll be two motors run by two small controllers of the Altrax/Curtis type. Hope the licensee is as good as you are at production. Lawrence Rhodes….

  2. on 20 Aug 2008 at 4:11 pm David Ratliff

    While I hate that your amazing Zilla controllers don’t have a stable production future, I can ABSOLUTELY relate to health issues caused by running a business! Up until recently, I owned a business producing and selling equipment for law enforcement vehicles. Well, like you, I was seeing my health steadily going down hill. I developed bleeding ulcers, nervous challenges…all sorts of nasty stuff…and completely gray hair at 42. The first of the year, I closed my business and partnered with 3 other guys in a related business. In short, I decided I couldn’t do it all myself anymore. And the IRS…GOOD GOD! Anyway, now I make a solid income every month. Sales are made, even if I don’t do it all; I have a company car and my health is SO much better. Otmar, I have learned TONS from your posts on the EVDL. I plan on the Zilla being my next controller…provided you find someone to produce it. FIRST and foremost…I wish you great health and peace of mind. Good luck!
    David Ratliff

  3. on 20 Aug 2008 at 4:49 pm Ricky Suiter

    While I hate to see this go I wish you the best in your endeavors. One has to take priority in themselves first and foremost. The little green box that sits under the hood of my Saturn has been a dream and I appreciate your work on it (and for my few screw ups).

    Now the prospect of a Otmar designed BMS, DC/DC converter… dare we even maybe say a tri-zilla? Now thats just EV porn! Quit teasing me 🙂

    Best of luck in whatever may come.


  4. on 20 Aug 2008 at 5:46 pm Claudio Natoli


    sorry to hear this news, but glad it sounds like you’re doing what is right for you.

    You’ll have little trouble finding early-adopters for whatever EV products come next (count me in! 🙂

    Best regards,

  5. on 24 Aug 2008 at 2:23 pm Richard Bebbington


    I too feel for what this stress has done to you – I’ve been in a similar situation as well, it’s no good – your health can’t be bought back, so best to get out now.

    The Zilla line is such a good product, I can’t believe no-one will pick it up and run with it.

    Best regards,


  6. on 17 Sep 2008 at 7:14 am john

    Hey Otmar,
    Take pride that you ran the business as a business should be run. It’s the American dream to create an internationally repected product. I wish u good health and continued success.
    All the Best,
    John in San Antonio Tx..

  7. on 26 Jan 2009 at 11:16 am Hugh


    I found that contract manufacturing is a great way to go. They have the people and management systems in place, as well as a production mindset. I know of several quality houses and would be happy to give you the info.

    Don’t give up