Cafe Electric llc is a small manufacturing company located in Corvallis, Oregon.
Our mission includes enabling the hobbyist and small manufacturer to build on-road freeway capable electric vehicles (EVs) of ever increasing quality and integration. The nature of our products and expertise is not appropriate for low speed electric vehicles such as bicycles, NEVs, go-carts, etc. By enabling the hobbyist we promote EVs in general, especially at times when the "Big 3" maintain that such things can not be practically done. We do our best to enable our customers by designing, developing, manufacturing and selling electronic devices that improve the safety and performance of EVs while still being affordable and available to common persons converting their own cars. At this time our range of electronic devices covers only motor controllers and the interfaces for them, but we have several more projects in the works.
Enabled by our ongoing obsession with overall business efficiency, we strive to balance the ratio of results to cost. We feel that by doing this we can offer these low volume manufactured components at a much lower cost than could be possible in a traditional company that is concerned with getting return on their R&D investments and large overhead.
We do some other things differently. Many of you will notice that we have a policy of not using the telephone to communicate with customers except in very rare cases. If you leave a phone message, we will listen to it but do not expect a reply. All communication for sales and support is performed through the web and email. This means that if you want a reply to a voice message (we do have a voice mail number), you'll at least have to email us your email address. This policy is a result of our striving for efficiency of the company. As enjoyable as it can be to speak with customers at length on the phone, we found that most of our phone time was spent on subjects that were not relevant to the products we were supporting or selling. The surprise was how much time and money that turns out to represent! Clearly there are hundreds if not thousands of people who would love to speak with us at length about all kinds of things. In my opinion this drove overhead costs up excessively with little benefit for the customer. Rather than raise prices to compensate, I started this experiment of exclusively using the internet some years ago. It seems to be working well inasmuch as we now spend very little of our time on communication.
Something about putting your thoughts in writing tends to make the question much more precise while often causing it to answer itself. Additionally we find it much easier to provide support when we can email along relevant data or links while working on our own schedule rather than interrupt the flow of production every time the phone rings.
We credit our obsession with efficiency, reliability of design and quality of manufacture combined with excellent service for our business survival which by the way is longer than that of our last four competitors combined.
I'm Otmar, your host and creator of this website. I started building electric car racing motor controllers in 1994. I designed and built a number of high power on-road EV motor controllers long before I founded Cafe Electric llc in 2000.
I have been involved in at least a dozen gas to electric on road EV conversions as well as a number of electric race cars. I especially enjoy finding loop holes in common conceptions that allow designing a better / less expensive / easier-to-build device for us "little guys" to use in our custom conversions.
My primary goal in starting Cafe Electric llc with the Zilla redesign in 2000 was to eventually offer an integrated control system for highway capable on road EVs. Such a system would enable you to easily put together a conversion that is what I classify as "turn key." This car would require no special knowledge to drive and maintain, no unusual switches to activate at certain times, no baby-sitting of batteries, no ambiguity about the available performance while offering long-term economy. Parts of this goal that are lacking my time include a optimized DC-DC converter, battery monitoring and regulation for lithium and lead acid cells and a simple fault indicator for the end user. For instance, I figure only a mechanic should need to see the complicated display of details such as individual battery voltages. Details have scared away many a well-intentioned user who, rightfully, just wants something that works reliably. Other projects I'm hoping to make time for include a charger interface for automatic input selection and end of charge control, as well as a simple to use "miles remaining" gauge for the dash. I know, it's easier said than implemented, but little else is required in instrumentation if the system is well designed. This is what I call "turn key." A system where any Jane or John Doe can hop in the car and drive in comfort with no special instruction and no concern that they might damage something. The auto manufacturers did this pretty well for the short time that they built EVs. The hobbyist conversion is getting closer, but still has a ways to go. My long-term goal is to improve on that and make essential parts available to the conversion builders like you and I.