Site Plug: We have teamed up with our friends at The Yacht Rigger to offer the Zeus to our readers.Andre, the owner,was part of the advisory board for this new regulator! Click the link below to pre-order. Regulators will begin shipping first week in /November.
Ever since the very early days of external alternator regulation (Compass Marine Inc. started with Ample Power and Cruising Equipment Co. 30+ years ago) I have haddreams of the day where set up, programming, customization etc. were all nicely packaged in one unit. Many Years ago, Balmar was working on a new regulator design but, when they were sold to CDI and now Dometic, the new regulator design was dropped.
Open -Source Regulator Project:
This was not an issue because I got involved early on with an open source regulator project that later became Wakespeed. When the Wakespeed came out it was so advanced It left everything else including the Balmar MC-614 in the dust. This was no surprise, as Rick Jones had been Balmar’s marketing director for years. Rick left Balmar during the CDI buyout and teamed up with Al Thomason and together they founded Wakespeed. Rick & Al understood what was needed in a full featured regulator but they missed the mark in a few areas that were always frustrating to me.
Let me just say the WakeSpeed is an amazing regulator, I love the product. Where I believe it falls short is ease of programming. For some odd reason Rick and Al failed to develop an app for easy programming, something myself and many others begged them for. For me, the vast majority of my customers are iPhone based and the Wakespeed works with Android/PC not IOS.
This problem is not imaginary and the industry was forced into developing third party work-arounds. Ocean Planet Energy developed a third party app for easy programming, Rick Bell (OGM-Energy) also developed a programming app. The problem for us, as a dealer for Wakespeed, was the lack of continuity for the end user/customer when they got into trouble. Was this a Wakespeed issue or an OPE or OGM-Energy problem? Considering we had customers who cruised to extremely remote locations such as Labrador trouble shooting with multiple companies in the loop was frustrating.
The Phone Call
Last November,I got a call from a colleague in the industry asking if I would be interested in taking part in a new regulator design. Everything was top-secret at first and I was skeptical. I mean, having been a manufacturer of custom externally regulated marine alternators, I knew most of the players in the industry including wholesale component suppliers etc. I accepted the invite to the Teams meeting from my friend Andre. When I found out the company was ARCO I was even more confused? I knew ARCO as a long time supplier of stock internally regulated alternator starters etc… All I could think was how booring! Wow, was I wrong! Rule #1 never make assumptions. It seems ARCO has a new CEO. When I met Ben on that first Teams meeting I was immediately impressed. He had passion, drive and explained in-depth how he’d assembled his new team specifically to tackle these new projects.
When Ben went around the screen introducing the team at ARCO he landed on Gene. Gene is an engineer who used to be at Regitar USA a massive worldwide supplier of internal voltage regulators, diodes and anything else rotating electrical related. Gene was the guy I worked with at Regitar to build the dummy regulator for the AMP-IT ED-200-ER alternator we built. One day my emails from Gene stopped being responded to, now I know why. Having a guy like Gene on-board showed me a huge commitment to these projects!
The advisory board
Ben promised he would be assembling an advisory board made up of industry experts to guide this project. ARCO created the advisory board from experts in not only the marine industry but also Marine. To say I was impressed with the guys from the RV sector would be an understatement.I knew most of the guys from the Marine sector through ABYC or my Facebook group Boat Electrical Systems. Not only did ARCO assemble an excellent group he gave us carte blanche to develop our dream regulator.
On the first advisory board meeting everyone was in unanimous agreement about “keep it simple”. This meant an easy to follow intuitive app for programming that could be password protected. We went so far as to discuss lingo to be sure the words chosen were accepted industry terminology. For example BULK is not a voltage limited stage of charging it is full fielding the alternator. Balmar for example has been using incorrect terminology since the early 90’s… This always led to confusion with DIY’s.
The Prototype Arrives
The speed at which ARCO turned out the prototypes was nothing short of astounding! Once we all had prototypes we went about testing it, finding bugs and reporting them to engineering & coding. ARCO’s team was always quick at fixing any glitches we found. and this is what alpha& beta testing are all about.
One thing you will notice is the lack of a Bluetooth antenna on the Prototype. The advisory board sent ARCO back to the drawing board on BT reception. In the end they wound up scrapping the original BT system and took a more industrial approach. Range is now better than anything I’ve ever tested in the marine environment.
P-Type or N-type?
The advisory board wanted a product that could be used to drive P-type externally regulated alternators, Balmar, Ample Power, Powerline, Electromaax/ Marine Smart Energy , American Power Systems etc. We also wanted it to work with N-type externally regulated alternators such as Mastervolt. Wakespeed does this by requiring a regulator to be ordered with an N or P type harness. The advisory board wanted one harness with N or P type to be chosen in the app. This is a huge benefit to the stocking dealer as the correct regulator is always on the shelf!
What Voltages Will it Support?
Another area of unanimous agreement was having one regulator for 12, 24, 36 or 48V systems.For example, with Balmar and others you need to choose the voltage up front when you purchase it. With the Zeus if your system is 12V now and you decide to go to another voltage in the future the Zeus will still work!
Unboxing the Zeus
Programming & App
I will be adding to this article when I have more time!
We do not want to put this website behind a pay-wall!
Please make a donation, that’s all we ask. Your donations & affiliate purchases are all we have to fund this web site. Please help to keep MarineHowTo.com a FREE source of information!