For long distance flash, even with a better beamer, the 580 EX II is better. For cloose work, you do not need it.
There are very few who have problems with the 580 EX II, those that do are often using some external accessory when they have problems, like high powered external power supplies that overheat the flash when used a lot over a short time.
I suspect the PW is closing the circuit too fast, which can send a fast rise time pulse to the flash trigger. Faster rise times can increase the chance of overvoltage by a large factor, and cause current reflections that can arc over. Thats the problem you get when trying to make an accessory without a complete understanding of the target product.
That said, the 580 EX II is high powered and a 480 EX II would probably last longer because its putting out less power and stressing components less.