Getting to the Green: Improving Golf Cart Efficiency Part 2

In Part 1 I discussed some of the major differences between Gas Vs. Electric Carts, In part 2 I've revealed some Tips and Tricks for increasing the overall efficiency of your carts. These can assist in lowering operating costs and enable your course to keep prices attractive to golfers, while widening your profit margins. Here are a few things to consider when trying to cut down expenses and improve performance:

Stimp My Ride - We all know the importance of lowering ball rolling resistance on playing surfaces, but why not with our carts too? Rolling Resistance (RR) explains energy depletion through tires over a distance and is influenced by tires and driving surface characteristics.

Many different tire factors influence the RR such as:
• Tire shape, tread pattern, depth, size and a softer tire as a higher RR than harder compounds.
• Higher air pressure in the tire generally reduces RR, recommended PSI is usually between 18-25, check tire
wall and do not over-inflate.
• Environmental conditions such as higher ambient temperature, rain, snow or wind all influence RR.

The surface texture of driving surfaces influences RR and fuel consumption by as much as 12 percent on paved driving surfaces, and far greater on turf, gravel and sand. Concrete cart paths are more energy intensive to install then gravel and asphalt, but allow for less RR against tires . Also, rain events have been known to greatly reduce cart revenue on courses without a well-designed cart path, but, of course, the drawback is that under “cart path only” rules, USGA studies show rounds can take longer than walking with a pull cart on the fairways, but at least you’ve got golfers while it’s raining.

Hack Your Cart - There are some fantastic aftermarket kits available to help make better use of your energy, and even generate it. For instance, hybrid kits are available for gas carts that enable a quieter electric drive mode for when passing golfers on the green, or they can be used as a generator to run power tools such as electric drills while out in the field. The PowerPod Kit will be available starting in November 2011 throughout North America.

Adding solar panel roofs to electric golf carts has become quite trendy. In Toronto (not best for solar) panels boosted the electrical input to an amount equivalent to 12 percent of consumption . When the carts were recharged at night however, this 12 percent benefit was reduced to between 7 and 10 percent due to efficiency losses inherent in the charging process. The average return on investment is between 3 and 10 years, depending on government rebates, your current cost of electricity and the amount of sunlight and energy you can generate. Solar panels (hard tops and peel-and-stick) are available through many golf cart distributors, and most manufacturers have or will be releasing models in the near future with built-in photovoltaic cells. (See study details here)

Kick It Route Down - is a free Web app that will help put a dollar value on the route you choose. Obviously, there are significant variables not taken into account here, including RR of driving surface, topography and driver behavior, but it’s a good start to help understand where corners can be cut on your more popular driving routes.

This post was originally published in the September 2011 issue of Golf Course Trades Magazine