One of the most common questions that comes up during conversation while selling an electric golf car is, “how long will the batteries last?” followed almost immediately by “… and how much to replace them?”
Both questions are reasonable to ask. With proper maintenance, the average life expectancy of a golf car battery is 6 years. With the range generally falling between 4 – 8 years.
There are many valuable features and benefits to purchasing an electric golf car, but buyers need to go into owning an electric golf car with an expectation that if they hold on to that golf car long enough, they will have to replace the batteries.
There are several variables that affect the life expectancy of golf car batteries. This article will outline 3 main areas that have the greatest impact on either reducing or extending the life of your batteries.
We’ll also cover several tips that you’ll want to follow to get the best and longest performance from your batteries. If all the tips in this article are followed, it is reasonable to expect your golf car batteries to have a life expectancy of at least 6 years.
Flooded Lead acid batteries perform best when they remain charged. Under and over-charging will severely reduce your battery performance and overall life.
- Over-charging. If you use the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) charger that came with your golf car, or a brand recommended by your local dealer, it will be difficult to over-charge your battery set. Most modern chargers will automatically shut off when it detects that the battery set is at the correct voltage.
- Under-charging. One of the most common issues I see is that people undercharge their golf car. What do I mean by “under-charge?” In this context, owners either do not let the batteries go through a complete charging cycle, or they just don’t charge their golf car frequently enough.
Can you overcharge your golf car batteries?
Unlikely. Most modern OEM golf car chargers have an automatic shut-off when the charger detects a specific “full” voltage on the battery set.
If you use an older golf car charger it may not have an automatic shut off switch and consequently it could be possible to overcharge your batteries.
In this case, purchase a simple and inexpensive timer for the outlet that you plug the charger into. Make sure to set the timer each time you charge your golf car.
Should I charge my golf car after each use?
Yes. Flooded lead acid batteries can and should be charged after each use, or more realistically, at the end of a day of use. With an automatic charger, the charger will detect when the batteries have reached a full charge and shut off.
After light use, it may only charge for up to an hour (or less) to reach full charge and result in only a few pennies in electricity cost.
Should I leave my golf car plugged in all the time?
It depends. According to the owner’s manual from E-Z-GO, a major manufacturer of golf cars, during prolonged storage you can leave the charger plugged into the golf car. Here is a link to an article specifically about this question. The below paragraph is directly from the E-Z-GO manual.
The battery charger can remain connected to the vehicle to keep a full charge on the batteries while the charger is connected to an active electrical supply. If the power to the electrical supply is disconnected or interrupted, the battery charger will continuously check the charge on the battery pack. A continuous check of the battery pack will pull power from the battery pack and drain the batteries.EZGO Owner’s Guide, RXV, Electric Powered Vehicle, 646285-F, rev. 7/2017
Understanding that if the power supply to the charger from the wall outlet is interrupted or disconnected, the charger will continue to pull voltage readings from the golf car batteries and eventually drain them.
The alternative is to fully charge the golf car batteries, unplug the charger from the golf car and return after a month to charge until full, then unplug charger again. Repeat as necessary.
This second approach is what we recommend. We’ve found that even though the charger (if left plugged in all the time) is supposed to maintain a float charge on the battery, the charger does not consistently detect a reduced battery capacity due to the colder northern temperatures we’re in.
The colder temperatures gradually increase the battery’s internal resistance lowering its capacity. So even though the golf car remains on a charger, the charger doesn’t maintain the proper charge and we find dead batteries.
Another reason to unplug after each charge is that many times a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet or circuit breaker will trip and disconnect the power to the charger which will deplete the batteries before the tripped breaker is discovered.
Do new golf car batteries need to be charged?
Absolutely! New batteries should be placed on a charger until fully charged. A flooded lead acid battery will go through three phases during its life-cycle.
The initial phase, called formatting, is when the battery has not yet attained its full capacity. During this phase you may notice that you don’t get the expected run time from your batteries.
This is a normal process and they will gradually increase capacity (if allowed to fully charge after each use) over 20-50 charging cycles until they enter the “peak” phase.
Cutting the charge cycles short (before fully charged) in the formatting phase can permanently reduce your battery’s capacity and lower their overall life expectancy.
Another area that has a major impact on the life expectancy of a lead-acid battery is something called “Depth of Discharge”.
A battery’s depth of discharge (DoD) indicates the percentage of a battery (or set of batteries, in the case of golf cars) that is discharged relative to the overall capacity of the battery. Depth of Discharge is another way of thinking about battery capacity, only from the opposite view point.
While “state of charge” asks “how much is the battery charged?” DoD asks, “how much is the battery depleted or discharged?” The answers are usually expressed as a percentage (State of Charge: 75% “full”) (DoD: 25% “empty”). Glass half full vs. glass half empty.
Most manufacturers of flooded lead acid batteries recommend that the batteries not exceed 80% DoD.
Okay, so how I determine the Depth of Discharge?
In many cases, consumer model golf cars will come with a State-of-Charge (SoC) meter. It will be mounted into the dash and look like a fuel gauge. These aren’t perfect but will give you a rough estimation of the SoC.
Just like your car, you know when you have a half a tank left, same thing here. If you’re down to a quarter of a “tank”, you should probably get it on a charger sooner rather than later.
This becomes even trickier if the golf cars are owned or leased by a golf course. Many times, the “fleet” model treats the SoC meter as an optional accessory. In these situations, a quick check of the batteries with a voltage meter will give you an idea of what voltage remains on a battery and on the set.
For example, A Trojan T-1275+ 12v battery:
|Battery||State-of-Charge (SoC)||Cell Voltage||# of Cells||Battery Voltage||# of Batteries||Pack Voltage|
|T-1275 / T-1275+||100%||2.122 V||6||12.732 V||4||50.928V|
|T-1275 / T-1275+||50%||2.02 V||6||12.12 V||4||48.48 V|
|T-1275 / T-1275+||10%||1.918 V||6||11.508 V||4||46.032V|
50% SoC = 1.224 V *.5 = .612 V <- 1/2 of the difference
12.732 V – .612 V = 12.12 V
These numbers are based off the specification sheet for a T-1275+ battery provided by Trojan. The sheet includes a table that has the specific gravity and voltages / cell or battery. The math is my own and is a rough indication.
For a golf course, the important lesson here is to rotate the fleet as much as possible to allow cars to complete a full charge before using again and not to allow the cars to run until the batteries are completely exhausted.
The third area that significantly impacts the life of a golf car battery is how well it is maintained.
The maintenance on a flooded lead acid battery is not difficult and not very time consuming but doing it or not doing it will be the difference between prematurely having to spend a bunch of money on new batteries or not.
- Wear protective eye covering.
- Wear protective gloves (electrolyte solution may irritate skin)
- Wear old clothes (the electrolyte in the batteries likes to eat holes in cotton)
- Wrap the handle of a wrench in electrical tape
- Caution when working with electricity
Check battery terminal connections
- If corroded, clean corrosion with a battery terminal brush
- Tighten loose terminal connections
- Replace corroded or damaged battery cables
Check for proper water levels in battery cells
- If plates are exposed to the air, add distilled water just until the plate is covered.
- If you needed to add water to cover the plates, charge batteries until fully charged.
- Check water levels once fully charged. If necessary, fill to proper level.
- Using common baking soda and regular water 1 cup / Gallon spray off the batteries to neutralize any “acid” and remove dirt, rust, etc…
Check tire pressure
- Should be ~ 22 psi
- Low tire pressure causes the golf car to pull more energy from batteries to maintain speed thus reducing run time and overworking the batteries.