Regardless of the fortunes of the sport of golf in general, the PGA show is a shot of adrenalin to the golf car industry. Golf continues to be a major market segment for the industry, of course, but it also supports an on-going transition into other segments that are growing. Small, task-oriented vehicle manufacturers continue to use the PGA Show as a showcase for product development that is clearly adaptable to non-golf related markets.

The adrenalin bump is especially true when you see the telltale signs of game-changing technologies and advanced vehicle upgrades. The game changer this year can be summed up in one word—lithium. The vastly superior energy density of lithium, compared to lead acid has never been questioned. Superior technology very often does not easily translate into commercial viability.  In fact, the “seasoning” or break-in period for a new technology can be excruciatingly drawn out. Moreover, a stumble out-of-the-box can set back effective product introduction for months, if not years. That has certainly been the history of lithium batteries so far. The combination of high price and chemical instability have caused many to give up on large format lithium batteries ever becoming commercially viable for small, task-oriented vehicles.

There were strong indications on display at the PGA Show, however, that an extensive market for lithium batteries for use in small, task-oriented vehicles could be realized in the not too distant future.


E-Z-GO’s lithium-powered concept vehicle

E-Z-GO had on display a lithium-powered RXV with an AC drive train. Although still in the concept stage, the company has been testing lithium power for three and one-half years, according to Brandon Haddock, the company’s director of communications.  Further, he noted, lithium-powered vehicles are in operation on selected courses throughout the United States.

E-Z-GO is mum regarding their current collaborator, but apparently the company has engaged several lithium battery manufacturers during the testing process.


Garia’s new utility vehicle powered by Samsung lithium batteries

Garia, the manufacturer of high end golf cars and LSVs, is introducing its Jepper City and Jepper Park, 48 volt electric utility vehicles in Europe this summer. The Jepper City is approved for road use in Europe and classified under the European Union’s Framework Directive 2002/24/EC as an L7e or heavy utility vehicle. Such vehicles can be gas, diesel, or electric powered—and the Jepper features a lithium battery option.

The Jepper City, which was on display at the PGA Show, has a price point of about $15,000, in the lead acid model, while the lithium-powered version would go for about $5,000-$6,000 more, according to Steen Scherff, Garia Sales Director. The Jepper City is equipped with many ergonomic features, such as a fully enclosed rigid cab, a complete set of gauges on an elegant dashboard, and integrated heat and air conditioning. With these accessories as standard equipment on the vehicle, either version is within a competitive price range for equivalently equipped light utility vehicles.

Garia’s collaborator in the development of the lithium powered vehicle is Samsung SDI. Garia Lithium 1 can power the Jepper 28 miles at a speed of 9 m.p.h. The Garia Lithium 2, obviously more capable, has a range of 45 miles at that speed and 39 miles at 22 m.p.h. The former is priced at $3,499 and the latter, $5,799.


Oakridge offers a new line materials product for a superior lithium battery

In the new products feature at the Show, Oakridge Energy Solutions, Inc. presented its new lithium battery technology, the ProSeries Lithium Phosphate Golf Car Battery Systems. The battery line is described as “…a high energy, safe lithium battery product featuring an intelligent battery monitoring system to maximize power availability and battery life.”

According to John Shelburne, Director of Product Development, the company will be producing lithium ion iron phosphate (LFP) batteries, a proven technology for safety and stability. While not a new technology, the cell design is engineered to optimize a balance between energy and power. Further, production of the ProSeries will be in the United States, which will better assure high quality control and timely deliveries of product to the customer.

In anticipation of market demand, Oakridge purchased large format prismatic lithium ion manufacturing equipment with an estimated replacement value of more than $10,000,000 from Bren-Tronics on October 20, 2014. According to a company press release, this equipment has been relocated to the company’s headquarters location in Melbourne, Florida and is ready for installation. In addition, to accommodate the machinery and requisite materials and inventory, Oakridge is in the process of negotiating a lease for a 50,000 square foot building so that large scale production of the ProSeries line can begin.

Even more exciting is the tentative price point for a four by 12 volt battery pack (40 AH per battery) in the ProSeries: $1,400 (at wholesale, with a planned cap at $2,000 retail). As lithium batteries last about three times longer than lead acid counterparts, this could be considered a bargain.