The Zilla Story… Continues!

If you’re not familiar with Zilla controllers, you may not really understand why I’m so excited to see them back in production, and in particular, in partnership with a company like Manzanita Micro.  Here’s the deal.

They’re simply the baddest-ass controllers available.

Here’s a rundown from the Zilla site, CafeElectric LLC (my edits):
“The Zilla is by far the most powerful motor controller available for Electric Vehicles.
Exceptionally high power density has been achieved by a novel design which pays careful attention to maximizing efficiency.

While designing the Zilla series of controllers much attention was given to safety. From carefully monitoring that the controller comes up to voltage, communicates properly and checks the integrity of the output stage before engaging the main contactor, to the dual microprocessors that cross check and each have independent means of shutting the system off, there is no other DC EV controller that approaches this level of security.

The Zilla is the only controller that allows adjustment of multiple limits on battery voltage, battery current, motor current, motor voltage, RPM and more.

The Hairball interface also has a option for safe automatic Series/Parallel shifting of dual motors for even more power and efficiency.”

Zilla is the creation of Otmar Ebenhoech in 2000, his attempt to design a controller that offered “an integrated control system for highway capable on-road EVs”.  Simple enough.  Along the way, though, they turned into the most bulletproof, highest-power controllers out there.  The first thing you find out about the EV system when you’re building these things is that controllers blow up.  Otmar was committed to making a controller that didn’t.

Want to see the specs?  OK.  Here you go:

  • Maximum nominal input voltage range for Lead Acid batteries: 72 to 348 volts.
  • Absolute maximum fully loaded input voltage range: 36 to 400 volts**
  • Maximum motor current at 50°C heatsink temperature: 2000 Amps for Z2K, 1000 Amps for Z1K
  • Maximum Battery Current at 200V: 1900 Amps for Z2K, 950 Amps for Z1K
  • Maximum Battery Current at 300V: 1770 Amps for Z2K, 885 Amps for Z1K
  • Maximum Battery Current at 400V: 1600 Amps for Z2K, 800 Amps for Z1K
  • Continuous motor current @ 50°C coolant temp & 100% Duty Cycle: over 600 Amps for Z2K, 300 Amps for Z1K
  • Peak Power: 640,000 Watts for Z2K, 320,000 Watts for Z1K

I know.  Sick.  Not cheap, OK, but sick.

It’s no mistake that the first place I heard the Zilla name was back when the first KillaCycle run turned more than a few heads in the EV community and the NEDRA community as well.  Although you’ll see the Zilla name in EV car circles, more than a couple of guys are running Zillas in motorcycles.  (Shawn Lawless, for one…)

From the earliest posts in Otmar’s blog you read the tortured story of a product coming to market- the painful design and birthing phases, the production pains and triumphs, the eternal optimism of the inventor and entrepreneur, and most importantly, the commitment the designer had throughout all the ups and downs to building the highest quality product and providing the best level of customer support.  Truly an inspiration.  Something I particularly identify with, you read of the constant “switch of hats” that any small business owner has to be able to do…  one day you’re the lead designer, one day you’re taking out the trash, and you’re always putting out fires.  Sometimes literally.

If you want to see who all’s running the Zilla, check out the “Zilla Rides” links on the site.

The Manzanita Micro connection seems like a match made in heaven.  From Otmar’s blog:

“I’ve known Rich Rudman and the folks at Manzanita Micro for many years. Rich and I go back to the mid 1990′s as friends and sometimes friendly rivals. We often observed how similar our companies were. Now that Manzanita has expanded operations into a beautiful new facility and expanded staff to handle larger volumes (I admit, I was very impressed during my recent visit) it looks to me that they have the space and the ability to build Zilla controllers in good volumes. I’m looking forward to working with them to bring the Zilla back, and also I’m eager to get back to product development, maybe starting with improving the Hairball with new code and features.”

Manzanita can do what they do well- provide some of the best build and customer support in the EV world- and Otmar can do what he does best- build badass controllers. 

This is the best kind of story- a man with a vision for a product that is truly head-and-shoulders above anything else out there, and his tireless work to build a team to make that product into a reality.

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