If you’ve ever had to purchase a new set of batteries for your golf car, the resulting costs will leave you wanting to learn better ways to make them last longer. This is especially true for golf car fleet managers who may oversee hundreds of golf cars and are trying to keep operating costs low.
Fortunately, there are three key factors that will help to maximize the longevity of flooded, deep cycle lead-acid batteries. By understanding how batteries are constructed, charged and discharged, and maintained, you’ll be able to apply these principles to your specific vehicle(s) to maximize the life span of the batteries powering them.
1) Making A Smart Battery Purchase. Extending battery life begins when you purchase your batteries. A premium quality battery may have a higher initial cost, but it can end up saving money in the long run. Batteries with lower capacity, fewer or lighter internal components (lead plates and plate construction), lower cost materials, or inferior design, may have a shorter cycle life in the same application due to greater depth of discharge (DOD) and more rapid material degradation. For fleets with golf cars that see heavy cycling, a higher capacity battery with premium quality materials would provide additional benefits by delivering longer run times with lower DOD resulting in longer cycle life.
2) Battery Cycle Life Is Linked to Its Depth Of Discharge (DOD). Most battery manufacturers recommend limiting discharges to 50 percent DOD for optimum cycle life versus run time. In order to determine when your golf car batteries reach 50 percent DOD, you have to occasionally check their State of Charge (SOC). This simply requires a hydrometer to check electrolyte specific gravity at periodic intervals until you know approximately when your batteries will reach about 50 percent DOD. Charging them when they reach this level or before, will ultimately promote longer service life and provide a substantial savings toward your annual budget. Also, employing opportunity charging, and making sure to rotate the use of all the cars in the fleet will help to promote longer service life. Contact your battery manufacturer for a specific gravity versus state of charge chart for your batteries.
3) Develop A Routine Maintenance Schedule. Proper maintenance is essential to optimizing battery performance and extending service life. First, make sure you follow safe operating procedures such as performing maintenance in a properly ventilated area, wearing gloves and protective eyewear, etc. Make sure your batteries are kept clean and the terminals are free from corrosion. Regularly clean them by scrubbing the tops and terminals lightly with a mixture of baking soda and water – then rinse with clean water. Knowing when and how to water batteries is also key to extending battery service life. Consult the battery manufacturer for proper watering intervals and procedures. For large fleets, single point watering systems make the job much easier and quicker, saving time and money in the long run. Along with proper watering, performing regular equalization charging (at least once per month) is a must to extend battery life. Equalization charging is an extended charge after the normal charge cycle to balance the state of charge of all the cells in the battery pack, and to mix the electrolyte to prevent stratification that can shorten battery life.
By knowing these three factors, it is possible to make dramatic reductions in golf car operating costs. By selecting the right battery for the application, controlling depth of discharge, and properly maintaining the batteries; golf car batteries can provide many years of reliable service. In some rare instances, flooded lead-acid batteries have been known to last 10 years or more under well managed circumstances. While this is not necessarily the case in every application, adding a year or more to the life of your golf car batteries is well worth the effort.