More bad news from this end of the wire. I sent the Zivan charger off to be repaired and a fellow EV'er & Zapi owner, Leon Levasseur, was kind enough to loan me his Zivan charger. After filling up some thirsty batteries and changing the programming over to regen (I finished moving the motor advance) I decided to go for a short test drive. Everything worked and as I got ready to turn around and head home I stepped on the brake, there was a brief surge of regenerative braking, and that was all she wrote.
The Zapi controller is dead. Not only that but every Zapi H3 that I know of in the USA has died while trying regen. Something is wrong: either the electronics, the wiring, the contactors, or the programming. It could be a wrong interpretation on our part, or it could be an oversight by the company but regardless something isn't right.
My immediate reaction was "I've had it, I want my money back". Well Zapi (and all of Italy for that matter) is on vacation for the month of August. Gary Flo (the fellow I bought it from) is also on vacation, and after weeks of trying to get an answer from Zappi North America (the distributors) I got a short answer back that says talk to Gary. Well, Gary was good enough to return my call during his vacation and he said, "gotta wait 'til Zapi is back to work so we can ask them about refunds".
Either way I'm out of an EV for the rest of the summer.
So I'm taking a slightly different approach. I'm going to send my logic board, the contactors in question (different than the Zapi manual, but approved for use by Zapi), all of my schematics, my programming parameters, and a letter describing what has happened. I figure they can fix my board (under warranty) and then use my contactors to verify that it works in regen on their test setup. If all of that fails, then I'll try to get my money back.
I really do like the Zapi. It's frustrating since there isn't anyone stateside you can get support from and no one that has a working system which we can copy. Still, it ran solid in traction mode the whole time I used it so I think that once they discover the problem and fix it we will have a good controller.
That's the theory...
Well, here it is. I've removed the logic board and am packing it up for its trip to Italy. We'll wish it godspeed and a safe, productive journey.
If you are interested here is my letter to Zapi:
To Zapi, I have sent the enclosed parts and information in the hope that you can help me get my H3 regen controller working again and help to solve the problem I and others have had with trying to use these controllers in regenerative mode. I bought my Zapi 144v 800 amp H3 controller from Gary Flo at Mendomotive. I also bought the contactors required to use it in regen mode. Gary sent BTA/BTI contactors which were different from those shown in your documentation. He did this after checking with your office and confirming that they would work properly. Perhaps these are not the fault behind our regen failure problems, but it is on our list of suspicious factors. I should clarify what I mean by "we": we means myself and the three or four other Zapi H3 owners who have had their controller die shortly after starting to use it in regenerative mode. I ran my H3 in standard traction mode for well over a weeks worth of driving without any troubles. After resetting my motor to zero advance and changing the programmer to regenerative mode and setting up the rest of the parameters (see attached parameter sheet) I went for a very short and slow test drive. Release braking worked very smooth, but when I stepped on the brake pedal it seemed "rougher" but it worked and resulted in a higher level of regenerative braking. On my third time stepping on the brake (I was starting to go down a small hill) there was a brief surge and then nothing. The controller hasn't worked since that time. The error message I get is that VMN is low and stepping through your troubleshooting charts concludes that the controller logic board is bad. You will also note that I have enclosed the BTA/BTI contactor set that I and others have been using. I am hoping that with the enclosed schematics, programming parameters, and description you can tell me (us) what we are doing wrong in our regenerative wiring or programming. If we haven't done anything wrong, then perhaps you can use this contactor set on your own test car and verify that it really does work for regenerative braking. If you find that the BTA/BTI contactors will not work, then perhaps you will exchange them with a set that do? Note that these are 120v contactors and I have a 144v system, thus I used a series resistor to keep the current draw low. I appreciate you fixing this unit under warranty and hope that something can be found that solves our regenerative braking problem. I really like my H3 controller and think it is a nice piece of equipment. Unfortunately it is very difficult for us in the United States when we have problems since there is no one over here who has a schematic or a working H3, plus no repair parts or service technician. Some gentlemen have tried to fix their H3 themselves, but I don't want to attempt this without a full set of schematics and a parts list. I don't have a fax #, but you may call me at home or at work. You can also reach me via email. I also have an internet web page which chronicals my whole conversion with schematics, pictures, and drawings. I have many people send me letters asking what I think about the Zapi H3, but right now I tell them that I don't know and to wait until I get my controller repaired. Again, I am looking forward to solving this problem and using my H3 in regen mode soon. Thank you for your time.
Next: Break in the Storm
© Copyright 1995-2002 Jerry Halstead