Golf is a well-recognized and loved sport all over the world, in the United States alone in 2018 over 36% of the population either played, watched or read about golf. Since the average size of a golf course is roughly 150 acres, there is a need to invest in golf carts. Globally the golf cart market is expected to reach USD1,41 billion by 2030. In 2016 alone 77 000 golf carts were sold that year, and the rate increases at an annual rate of about 4%, meaning in 2021 approximately 100 000 golf carts were sold with the market being worth USD 200million.
Table of Contents
- What are Golf Carts why do they need batteries?
- Types of batteries used in golf carts
- Lithium-ion batteries
- Testing the various types of battery models
- Safety protocols
- What to check
- Steps in testing golf cart batteries
- Voltage (Volts)
- Current Drawn
- Using a Discharge Meter
- Electrolyte level
- Warning signs for golf cart battery failure
What are Golf Carts why do they need batteries?
Golf carts are a sort of a sort of low-speed vehicle powered by either electric motors or a combustion engine for older models. They are designed for use in golf courses to move golfers and their equipment round the course, however they can be used for other residential and industrial purposes such as in hotel grounds. Both model types combustion or electric use batteries, however the batteries used in combustion engine types are significantly smaller than the electric type ones as they are used only to start the engine. The electric golf carts models use relatively larger batteries and different battery chemistry types as the electric motor used in these golf carts consume power stored in the battery to operate. For both models however battery maintenance is crucial to ensure they are operating smoothly so as to prolong their life span.
Types of batteries used in golf carts
Generally, a battery is a device that stores chemical energy that will be converted to electrical energy when need arises. There are several battery chemistries that are used today to power golf carts and these include lithium ion (Li-ion) golf cart batteries, flooded lead acid(wet), gel lead acid and the AGM Lead Acid batteries, however the two most common types are the flooded lead acid(wet) and the lithium ion (Li-ion) battery. The flow of electrons from the negative terminal to the positive terminal produces electricity used by the electric motor of the golf cart. Golf carts usually use a series of batteries to supply the needed voltage and amperage, these usually have a rated voltage of 6V, 8V or 12V, however the electric drive system will have 36V to 48V depending the manufacturer ‘s requirements. There are two power features that are important and should always be considered, these are the voltage measured in volts(V), which translates to how much power it can deliver and the current measured in amps(A), which translates to how fast that power can be delivered. Voltage is favored for long leisurely rides whereas amperage is favored for highly responsive rides.
These typically last longer than lead acid and require little maintenance, they also do not lose power as their voltage dips and have much faster recharge speeds while weighing less. However, they are more expensive than lead acid batteries.
Testing the various types of battery models
When it comes to handling any sort electrical circuitry safety is of the uttermost importance, the large voltages used in golf cart batteries can pose electrical hazards such as shocks. It is of paramount to ensure the proper safety precautions are observed when carrying out maintenance on the golf cart batteries. It is also important to note that battery life span often depends on the number of charge cycles and the quality of maintenance.
– Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as insulated rubber gloves and apron, safety goggles, protective clothing against sulfuric acid spills and safety shoes with metal toe caps.
-Proper ventilation is also important as batteries can give of certain harmful gases.
– Keep all sparks, naked flames, or ignited objects away from the battery, these also include cigarettes.
– The golf cart battery should be maintained at 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) when doing tests for optimum results.
When carrying out load testing don’t remove the load clamps before the test is concluded as it can lead to arcing and explosions.
What to check
– Whenever there is need to check, maintain or replace electric batteries in a golf cart ensure that the voltage and current readings match those stipulated by the manufacturer, these values are usually stipulated in the manual or are printed on stickers on the batteries themselves.
– Also ensure the voltage for the charger and the cart match, this is particularly important when replacing the charger. Reasons for this are that under-powered chargers will cause Sulphur to build on the negative plate, while over powered chargers will build corrosion on the positive plate and both these situations reduce the long-term durability of either the charger or the batteries.
– You should clean the golf cart battery with a bristle brush and mild cleaner that has anti-corrosive properties.
– Prevent oxidation and acid contact with the terminals by putting silicon paste on the terminal ends.
– Always watch the wiring and replace frayed cables.
– Look for installations that are disconnected and reconnect if there is no power to the wheels.
– Especially for lithium batteries, charge between 8 to 10 hours depending on the recommendation by the manufacturer and keep the charge above 20%.
– Instead of allowing the battery to run till it is empty before charging keep it regularly charged to around 80% of the full charge.
Steps in testing golf cart batteries
Several steps are necessary when testing for reliability. Check particularly for the three important parameters voltage, current and the electrolyte state and level.
This is checked with the golf cart motor switched off. Also ensure the golf cart batteries are topped of before testing for voltage. Since golf carts typically use a combination of individual battery packs connected in series, use the rated voltage as a bench mark to get the correct reading. For example, for a battery rated 48V, with the battery fully charged, adjust the voltmeter to the correct voltage range, measuring direct current (DC) voltage at limit of 200V. Set the negative probe of the voltmeter on the negative terminal and the positive probe on the positive terminal and observe the voltage reading on the voltmeter screen, in the case of the 48V battery pack the voltmeter should record at least 48V or even 50V to 52 V if the battery is still fully functional. Voltage readings below those values usually indicate that the battery is deteriorating hence you may consider replacing the battery altogether.
Looking at individual batteries, if the battery pack has several individual batteries and these can be safely accessed, isolate the battery being tested by disconnecting it from the other batteries and testing its individual voltage level ensuring it matches the rated voltage, if not there is need to replace that individual battery pack.
Current drawn at constant voltage as well as the overall performance of the golf cart battery pack can be tested using a load tester, this is usually carried out by a qualified professional. The load tester simulates real life conditions under which the golf cart can be placed under, done by drawing current from the battery pack for maybe an average time of 5 minutes., if the voltage drops by roughly 0.5 volts or more, it usually indicates that the battery is defective.
Using a Discharge Meter
It is an alternative to the load tester and the reading in this case indicates the number of minutes the battery can be used before its 75 percent discharged. This instrument is often used for industrial purposes hence can be found usually only at golf courses, battery retailers and battery manufactures. The meter is usually connected such that it draws 75-amp load from the batteries, then waiting for a digital response in minutes. Health golf cart batteries usually reflect about 105 minutes while anything less than 50 to 60 minutes means the batteries are faulty or deteriorated.
The electrolyte level is tested using a hydrometer. Before using the hydrometer safety precautions such as wearing protective googles and other protective equipment such as rubber gloves and apron to guard against sulfuric acid spills should be worn.
To check the electrolyte level place the lower nozzle into the battery electrolyte compartment and draw a sample into the center pouch. After this hold the hydrometer to eye level to get the reading. The reading should be between 1.275 and 1.280 specific gravity. This test can also be carried out on the individual cells if there are several of them. A reading of 1.200 to 1.219 indicates the battery is only 25-50 percent charged while 1.140 indicates that its fully charged.
Warning signs for golf cart battery failure
-Slow charging especially that is getting worse with time probably indicates the internal chemicals have deteriorated.
– Quick discharge can also be an indication of the increasing deterioration of the battery.
– Sluggish acceleration of the golf cart can also indicate that the battery is unable to deliver the required current and voltage hence may need replacing or repairing by a professional.
Reasons for battery failure can vary from battery age, overcharging or undercharging, corrosion of the battery materials, use of an incorrect battery or overuse of the golf cart battery with additional electronic features such as installing a heavy sound system. As such these need to be checked to ensure the battery performs optimally.