The ZAPI H2 Motor controller is working in the traction mode. Compared to my 4 previous controllers the first thing I notice is that you can creep when starting. Although the 5k ohm linear pot is the same one I used with other controllers, the ZAPI start program provides different speed curves so the forward start can be very slow, half the speed of walking but moves up quickly to full current. And the controller is silent, I can hear the microswitch on the throttle pedal. No Curtis 1231C whine!
I have been waiting for regen since I first converted my '59 MGA Roadster in 1972. There are streets with 12 to 20% grades which I can easily go up but I do not trust my drum brakes on the long down hill.
After talking in person and by email with Gary Flo of InnEVations, he said to me three times 'talk to Greg McCrea,' Electric Conversions in Sacramento CA who drives with a regen H2 in his own car and stocks them. So I made the two hour drive. I always like to meet an EV component supplier in person and know that my calls will be returned if I have questions. Greg was that kind of guy. He does conversions and repairs on EVs and had several phone calls and customers come in while I was there, each person getting his undivided attention. I was glad to wait and observe how his shop operates. Greg does consulting in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe for firms with special electric propulsion needs in their vehicle development projects. He also visits the ZAPI factory in Poviglio near Florence, Italy, talks with the technicians at the factory and brings back controllers as personal baggage on the return flight, saving on the shipping bill.
Greg's background includes solar-thermal and low-NOx natural gas combustion technology which seems to progress naturally to the lowest NOx technology; EVs. Much of the work at the shop includes support to EV users, from private conversions to government fleet operated OEM electrics.
This provides and ideal opportunity to upgrade antiquated components as they fail with new technology. This makes the users happy to get the "Latest" while the shop technicians gain the "breaking in" experience of installation and tuning. For the last three years at the current location, Greg has also been dealing in EV related surplus such as high tension aircraft alternators suitable for hybrid drives and electric fork lifts to the menial cable and contactors. Most of this material is from the military, a real life Swords to Plowshares operation.
The H2 comes in three physical sizes, I chose the 400A with reversing DPDT and braking SPDT contactors. This is the only one to fit in the space available in the MGA. There are also 500A and 600A models which are longer, both available for up to 96 VDC. There will be a 120 volt model coming out in August. The H3 is two H2s tied together which may be why the H3 is more difficult to set up. Greg McCrea specializes in H2s, Gary Flo does H2s and H3s.
The H2 400A was US $545 and the H2 600A US $676, shipping from Italy added, contactors extra, programming labor a small extra charge. Two different programming hand held consoles are available at extra charge but Greg programmed mine for straight traction before he shipped it to me so I did not need to buy one. Later I will remove my Prestolite 4001 motor (a predecessor to Advanced DC Motor installed circa 1978) to retard the brush ring to neutral as advised for regen mode. Some one will come to Inverness and reprogram the E-Prom for regen. There is something about the California central valley summer heat that encourages people to come visit the Pacific shore.
One of the fellows I first met in Greg's shop was Robb Robel who repairs and converts cars there. Robb is also working on own his own EV and about to install a H2. He was going on vacation in two weeks so I suggested he and his wife stay in our guest apartment as other EVers have. They did and we learned together, me mostly from Robb, how to read the 65 page 'User's Manual' translated from Italian to the English version by an Italian and locating the 20 or so pages that apply to this particular H2. It is really a shop manual for a technician who is wiring up lift trucks, field weakening, 5 cable motors instead of four, speed check, etc. I will be able to do a second H2 installation much more quickly after this first rather lengthy learning process. I recommend anyone doing their first ZAPI installation have a consultant come for 4-6 hours. I hope there will be a true 'Owners manual' available soon.
The H2 has an LED indictor lamp on the controller which flashes from 1 to 9, and 32 blinks or remains on. Each decoding blink displayed gives you one or more trouble descriptions for each. The continuous blink indicates low battery charge with less than 10% residual charge. We had just the 8 blinks so then it was for us to try to interpret the diagnosis page. We had installed the main contactor ahead of the traction positive feed and the ZAPI wanted it controlled just ahead of the motor with the B+ plus on at the controller at all times.
All the H2 contactor solenoids work on traction battery voltage so I used a 96 volt relay to control my 12 VDC Albright. With my 16 - 12 volt deep-cycle Optimas with BAT Ultra-Force catalyst connected in series-parallel, I get good acceleration for the two lane county roads through hilly terrain.
The H2 400 is the best controller l have ever used, it is flexible, can be reprogrammed in the future and can be be used in other applications. And the price is right, less than half the cost of other controllers I considered, none of which would give me regen at this time. I recommend it for any light duty pickup or car as an ICE weighing under about 2400 pounds. My MGA weighed 1995# initially, now 2500# with equal weight on each axle. The H2 600 would be best for cars up to 50% heavier.
I have been running my Italian ZAPI H2 400 amp 96 VDC controller in the standard traction mode since June 1996. The ZAPI 400 amp was considerably less expensive even with shipping from Italy added than other controllers for standard traction.
My 11 year old controller had given up so I was in the market for a new one, but I wanted one that did not squeal and also had regenerative braking. My only choice was the ZAPI H2, a well proven controller for pumps, lift trucks and EVs in Europe.
For regenerative braking there is the added cost of additional contactors. In mid-October the Albright contactors arrived from the UK, they ship about every 6 weeks but the August vacations got in the way. For regen you need a changeover contactor (single pole-double throw) and reversing contactor (doubled pole-double throw) at $190 and $329 respectively. This certainly adds to the cost of regen. But I require regen braking as the MGA has drum brakes all around for the paved roads on hills in my neighborhood, to 18% on hills 400 to 1000 feet above sea level.
When driving with the ZAPI the car is in free wheeling as long as the throttle is just barely on. With the release of the throttle microswitch the mode is that of compression on an ICE engine. Then with the use of the brake pedal stop light switch connected to a relay a further speed reduction occurs by putting a larger regen current back in to the battery pack.
For regen to work without damage to the motor it is necessary to move the brush ring to a neutral position midway between the clockwise and counter-clockwise direction of the motor. This is not difficult to do although it took me several months to find the information for my Prestolite 4001 motor.
Two different hand held programming consoles are available at extra charge but Greg McCrea, Electric Conversions, Sacramento CA programmed mine for straight traction before he shipped it to me so I did not need to buy one.
The initial installation took several days as the instruction manual is for the factory installers but after you done it once it will be easier another time. Greg plans to assemble ZAPIs in metal box with heat sinks and wiring complete so only the motor and battery cables need to feed in. Also a terminal block will be available for the microswitches leads making the installation much easier.
Greg came over in October to show me how to cable the new Albright contactor and reprogram the H2 for regen. I now feel much safer and under control going down the hills. There has never been any trouble going up hill.
Compared to my four previous controllers the first thing I notice is that you can creep when starting. Although the 5k ohm linear pot is the same one I used with other controllers, the ZAPI start program provides different speed curves so the forward start can be very slow, half the speed of walking but moves up quickly to full current. The ZAPI controller has built-in resistors across the contactor points so there is no arcing and no extra diodes are required in the solenoid circuit.
Although I have a reverse gear I find the electronic reverse is much easier to use as it can work with any forward gear. The reverse gear has such a high gear ratio with an electric motor with high starting torque that more than once I have broken the welded motor clamp while in reverse. A dash mounted locking toggle switch with forward, neutral and reverse is very quick to use and the passenger cannot easily accidentally change it for you.
Also I think it is important to have motor governor speed control. With the motor under no load even at 72 VDC and now at 96 VDC the motor runs too fast with the clutch disengaged. Certainly you want the motor under load to go much faster that an ICE as the electric has good torque at low speed but is much more efficient near its upper end. I do not want to loose battery power to resistive heat through inefficiency. There are 16 - 12 volt Optima prototype deep cycle batteries in two strings.