Corbin's Treehouse - Corbin Dunn, Santa Cruz, CA
Plug Bug

Plug Bug: PFC-30 Charger Failed Again

Back in May 2011 my Manzanita Micro PFC-30 Charger stopped charging for no apparent reason. It recently just happened again! And darn it, it was out of warranty *again* and I had to pay to get it fixed for a second time. This involves taking it out of my car, boxing it up and mailing it to Washington to get it fixed. The process to get it fixed has always been fast (thanks Manzanita Micro!), however, I haven’t ever received a reason why it has failed twice for me. Well, I did talk to someone on the phone last year, and I recalled them saying the PFC30 doesn’t like to do step-down from 240v (the wall voltage) to 154v (my pack voltage), and generates a lot of heat doing so due to the “buck enhancement”. I’m not sure what that all means, but they recommended using a PFC-40 for me to charge at 30 amps input, which is sort of silly since it is advertised as a PFC-30, which should be able to take 30 amps in without overheating.

So, I generally charge my car using 22-25 amps at most, but sometimes I do occasionally kick it up to 30 amps when I’m in a hurry. I’d say I did this maybe 3 or 4 times in the past year, which should be okay (IMHO).

The failure was similar to before; I was charging my car during the day at work, and I got a ground fault text message from the EVSE charging station. I looked at it and saw that the breaker on the PFC30 was flipped, and flipping it didn’t make it work (and instead, made it instantly flip back).

I took the cover off to see what was up:


Looking close at the breaker (the lower left), I saw some fried wires:


It is sort of a bummer that it would fail like this…but there isn’t much I could do to prevent it. I was using the charger in compliance with how it was designed, and never did anything wrong.

I mailed it back to Manzanita and got it fixed within a week; they were very fast at that. But I did have to pay $213 to get it fixed! I asked why it failed, and more importantly, how to prevent it from failing again. I was given this message: “

It looks like there was overheating on the AC Cable, possibly repeatedly over time and the corrosion finally got bad enough to get into the power source causing these shorted components on the AC side of the charger. I hope that helps, Clarice

I asked for clarification on what would cause the cable to overheat, as I was using it within the required specs, but I haven’t gotten an answer.

So, I have to not recommend people use the Manzanita Micro PFC-30 charger. It might be due to my specific use (a 154v pack), but I don’t really know. If/when I do a conversion again, I will probably use the 10kw EMotorWerks open source charger. The kit is a great deal; uses an Arduino (so I could do some software) and can do 10kw output. Plus, I like making things, and I think I have enough handle on electronics to tackle the project.

On a good note: I now have over 18,000 miles gas free on the car.

One Response to “Plug Bug: PFC-30 Charger Failed Again”

  1. Brian says:

    Bummer, looks like their user guide specifically claims that the amperage rating is accurate and factory tested. They even use it as a sales pitch:

    “Unlike some other chargers, this is the rated continuous
    load and all units are thoroughly tested to their rated limits before leaving Manzanita

(c) 2008-2017 Corbin Dunn

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