Do you ever feel like you take your golf cart for granted? Flying along the fairways chasing your ball around the course in a cart sure beats walking. I mean, it’s not like we’re golfing for the exercise, right?
Still, the golf cart is as synonymous with golf as the golf bag and caddie. But what makes it work? We know there’s a battery and electric motor involved, but what are the specifics that make it go?
This post unpacks everything you need to know about how golf carts work.
The heart of any electric golf cart is its battery. The starter battery pack features voltages of 6, 8, or 12-Volts, and the drive system features a 36-Volt or 48-Volt battery. The battery provides the juice to the drive system, allowing you to cruise along the course.
Battery packs require charging. New models use wireless charging docks, while older models need the user to connect the battery to a charging system after use. Most golf cart batteries provide enough energy to keep the cart moving for up to four hours of continuous use.
Conditions on the course also play a role in battery life. Climbing lots of slopes places more strain on the motor, causing it to drain the battery faster.
Solenoid and Speed Controller
The solenoid controls the flow of energy from the battery to the motor. Without the solenoid, the cart would run flat-out all the time from the moment you tap the accelerator.
The solenoid acts as a “switch,” allowing you to control the power going to a specific cart system, in this case, the accelerator. The golf cart solenoid uses a circuit activated by the accelerator to direct energy from the batteries to the motor.
When the user pushes the pedal, the solenoid and controller accurately dispense power to the motor based on your feedback.
The speed controller is a variable resistor, and it’s a common feature in many electrical systems. The controller works on a basic concept. Depending on the input, variable resistors consume different quantities of energy.
With your golf cart speed controller, the accelerator pedal provides the input. It signals the speed controller to open or close the circuit and the amount of power delivered to the motor. Think of the speed controller as a tap, restricting water flow when you open and close it.
Sure, water and electricity are nothing alike. Still, it’s similar to how a speed controller limits and releases energy flow in the system, powering the motor at your will.
The electric golf cart doesn’t use the same throttle setup as gas-powered carts and cars. Those throttles attach to a throttle body controlling the flow of gasoline to the carburetor. It’s slightly different for fuel injection, but it remains the same concept.
However, electric golf carts don’t have carburetors or fuel injectors, so how does the throttle work? The electric golf cart throttle operates off the “inductive throttle sensor.” This sensor attaches to the foot pedal accelerator rod, passing through the inductive sensor coil.
The inductive sensor coil interprets the range of motion in the pedal and rod, feeding the controller system the information it needs to increase or decrease power to the motor. The system works identical to a car, being the user presses the pedal down to go fast, and a recoil spring controls the pedal return, ensuring a smooth stop and not a violent jerk when you take your foot off the pedal.
The electric motor is the heart of the golf cart. After the electricity makes it from the batteries through the solenoid and controller, it’s time to feed the motor and move the cart. Electric motor design pretty much stagnated in the late 1800s, and till Elon Musk stepped on the scene, there wasn’t a whole lot going on in the auto industry.
Today’s golf cart motors are still similar in operating principle to those on the first carts ever developed. Sure, manufacturers got better at improving the motors, but there hasn’t been much innovation in electric motor design over the last century.
- Most golf carts run on DC electric motors. They’re also a popular choice for entry-level carts. DC carts are cheaper to manufacture and maintain decent speeds on the golf course. The motor consists of three parts, the rotor, stator, and commutator.
- The stator is the static part of the motor, usually positioned outside the motor housing, featuring construction with copper windings. Most DC motors rely on the stator to produce the electromagnetic field required to make the motor operate.
- The rotor is the dynamic component of the motor. It’s a rod wrapped in copper, reacting to the electromagnetic force generated by the stator.
- The commutator is a pair of brushes transferring power to the stator plates. This transfer of power reverses the polarity in the stator, causing the motor to move. DC motors utilize several pairs of brushes to generate overlapping electromagnetic fields. This design and function increase the power output of the motor.
- AC motors are an alternative to DC motors, and they’re becoming increasingly popular in the golfing community. AC carts are usually $500 to $1,000 more expensive when compared to DC carts, but are they worth the extra money?
- AC carts claim to increase battery range while reducing power consumption. AC carts have to convert a DC power supply from the battery into AC power for the motor. The speed controller handles the conversion, creating a three-wave AC signal to the motor.
- The AC signal comprises three individual pulse waves specifically timed to reverse stator polarity. It’s a similar system to the brushes found in DC motors. The result is that the system uses the battery voltage efficiently, improving the range of the cart while minimizing maintenance costs.
In Closing – Extend Battery Life with a Trickle Charger
You know the hassle of dealing with a flat battery if you own a golf cart. Pulling the battery out after every golf game is frustrating, but finding it dead before your next round is equally annoying.
Connect your golf cart battery to a smart trickle charger. The smart charger keeps the battery topped up between games, and it doesn’t overcharge the battery.