Zeversolar - Not to be confused with Eversolar!
Jason and I got a chance to catch up with Zeversolar this week for our first article in a series of Deep Dive reviews into solar manufacturers. Zeversolar Australia is based in Docklands, Melbourne and they are a team of nine in total across Sales, Marketing and Service. We had an opportunity to speak with Dean Williamson (Sales Manager) and Bob Kostic (Technical Sales Manager) to get the low down on the Zeversolar product range, company structure, service process, and the question on everyone’s mind - what exactly is the relationship between Zeversolar and SMA?
Zeversolar is a Chinese inverter manufacturer that came about after a merger between Zof (which made large central inverters) and Eversolar (a string inverter maker) in 2012. In early 2013 things got shaken up further when the SMA Group bought a majority share in the company. Zeversolar at that point was one of the largest inverter manufacturers in China and SMA needed a Chinese partner in order to enter the fastest growing domestic market. SMA now owns 99.25% of Zeversolar, and this is what gets me most excited about this quiet achiever.
Not all of our solar specialists are as keen on Zeversolar though, in our discussions with installers we often get very negative feedback regarding the products as well as the service offered by the company. This largely comes down to Zeversolar’s past as life as Eversolar. Dean and Bob are the first to admit that Eversolar inverters were, to be generous, prone to fail. They had a lot of problems and to compound that issue the service offered when there was a fault was dismal. Not only were there not enough staff to deal with the volume of phone calls and emails, but inverters were sent back to China to be repaired. As you can imagine, customers were very unhappy and installers were caught in the middle.
Since the takeover by SMA, a lot has changed for the better. The first thing that happened according to Dean was the products were pulled off the shelf for six months and revamped. They report that the fault rate is now under 1%. The service has also been improved, although as I have reported previously, this year I had my first fault with a Zeversolar and the service was mediocre at best, poor contact and very slow turnaround.
The reason Eversolar’s legacy still sticks so closely to the new company is that until now they have decided not to change any of the products’ model names. The Eversol and Evershine are the same model names that had the high fault rates years ago. Dean explains that this is because the company decided rather than distance itself from the roots of Zeversolar it decided to own those problems and move on. Which it is about to do so, in style. We got a look at the new Zeverlution inverters today, which are due to come onto the Australian market in October this year. They are genuinely an exciting product. The 1.5 - 3kW (single phase, single tracker) models will hit the market first and they weigh in at just 7kg. The lightweight design has been achieved by a new efficient system architecture utilising around 40% less components than the current model. When I first started working in solar in 2010, the most popular inverters on the market were Aerosharp, and I struggled to lift their 3kW models which weighed 40kg. The Zeverlution models have built in WiFi, are small and look great, there is no doubt SMA play a substantial role in the creation of this model. The Zeverlution models are set to replace all of the current single phase and three phase models. The first three phase model on the market (scheduled for release 4th quarter 2015) will be a massive 33kW, which joins ABB as one of the few 30+ kW string inverters available today.
Since the take over by SMA the manufacturing process and quality control at Zeversolar has been completely overhauled. In particular the testing is far more rigorous with multiple tests carried out on each inverter, simulating use in a PV system and extreme temperature conditions over a four hour period. Previously testing was only performed on a few inverters from each batch, which resulted in the release of many dead on arrival (DOA) inverters. Unfortunately inadequate 'batch' testing is still performed by some inverter manufactures, and in our future Deep Dives into inverter manufacturers we will focus on testing procedures.
SMA and Zeversolar make a great team whose products cover almost all of the solar inverter market. We look forward to seeing the new Zeverlution models help the company break free of its awkward past and see the SMA Group make big inroads into the lower cost end of the market.
Currently Zeversolar is available in Australia, Europe, Asia and some emerging markets. It is not currently sold in North America.