The Best Golf Cart Batteries: Lithium-ion vs. Lead Acid

Golf carts powered by lithium-ion batteriesThe golf cart battery industry is in a state of flux. On one hand we have golf cart manufacturers and retailers that realize lithium-ion batteries are better for golf cart performance and longevity than lead acid batteries. On the other hand are consumers who resist the high upfront cost of lithium golf cart batteries, and consequently still rely on inferior lead-acid battery options.  

A November 2015 report that analyzes the golf cart battery market estimates the demand for golf cart batteries will increase roughly four percent between 2014 and 2019. The report estimates lead-acid batteries will account for roughly 79 percent of the golf cart battery market by 2019—mainly because of lithium’s upfront cost—but retailers and suppliers tell a different story.

RELiON supplies lithium and AGM lead-acid batteries, and we firmly believe lithium-ion golf cart batteries are the best option for manufacturers, retailers and consumers alike. Consumer buying trends support our position.

In December 2015, the U.K. golf cart manufacturers PowaKaddy and Motocaddy announced that nearly 60 percent of their carts and electronic golf accessories sold in the UK now contained lithium batteries. Unlike the rest of Europe, which already overwhelmingly adopted lithium golf cart batteries, the U.K. has been slower to make the change.

When consumers—like those in the U.K.—begin to understand the advantages lithium batteries provide compared to lead acid, we believe more people will demand their golf carts run on lithium power.

Below is our breakdown of golf cart batteries. We compare the pros and cons of lithium and lead-acid golf cart batteries, and discuss why we feel lithium-ion batteries are a superior choice.

Carrying Capacity

Equipping a lithium-ion battery into a golf cart enables the cart to significantly increase its weight-to-performance ratio. Lithium golf cart batteries are half the size of a traditional lead-acid battery, which shaves off two-thirds of the battery weight a golf cart would normally operate with. The lighter weight means the golf cart can reach higher speeds with less effort and carry more weight without feeling sluggish to the occupants.

The weight-to-performance ratio difference lets the lithium-powered cart carry an additional two average-sized adults and their equipment before reaching carrying capacity. Because lithium batteries maintain the same voltage outputs regardless of the battery’s charge, the cart continues to perform after its lead-acid counterpart has fallen behind the pack. In comparison, lead acid and Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) batteries lose voltage output and performance after 70-75 percent of the rated battery capacity is used, which negatively affects carrying capacity and compounds the issue as the day wears on.

Cart Wear And Tear

Golf carts are expensive investments, and keeping them well-maintained helps protect the cart for years of use. One of the main factors adding to cart wear and tear is weight; a heavy cart is difficult to drive uphill or on challenging terrain, and the added weight can tear up grass and put extra strain on the brakes.

Swapping the battery from lead acid to lithium is the easiest way to reduce a golf cart’s weight and overall wear and tear. As a bonus, lithium batteries need virtually no maintenance, whereas lead-acid batteries regularly need to be checked and maintained. The lack of lead-acid chemical spills also keeps carts operating in tip-top shape.

Battery Charging Speed

Regardless if you’re using a lead-acid battery or a lithium-ion battery, any electric car or golf cart faces the same flaw: they have to be charged. Charging takes time, and unless you happen to have a second cart at your disposal, that time can put you out of the game for a while.

A good golf cart needs to maintain consistent power and speed on any course terrain. Lithium-ion batteries can manage this without a problem, but a lead-acid battery will slow the cart down as its voltage dips.  Plus after the charge has dissipated, it takes an average lead-acid battery roughly eight hours to recharge back to full. Whereas, lithium-ion golf cart batteries can be recharged up to 80 percent capacity in about an hour, and reach full charge in less than three hours.

Plus, partially-charged lead-acid batteries sustain sulfation damage, which results in significantly reduced life. On the other hand, lithium-ion batteries have no adverse reaction to being less than fully charged, so it's okay to give the golf cart a pit-stop charge during lunch. 

Golf Cart Battery Compatibility 

Golf carts designed for lead-acid batteries can see a significant performance boost by swapping the lead-acid battery to a lithium-ion battery. However, this second wind can come at an instillation cost. Many lead-acid equipped golf carts need a retro-fit kit to operate with a lithium-ion battery, and if the cart manufacturer doesn’t have a kit, then the cart will need modifications to operate with a lithium battery.

The easiest way to tell if a cart is going to need modifications or a simple retro-fit kit is the battery voltage. Compare a lithium-ion battery and a lead-acid battery side-by-side, and if the battery voltage and amp-hour capacity are the same, then the battery can be plugged directly into the golf cart. However, lithium-ion battery’s smaller size and design often means the golf cart might needs alterations to its battery mount, charger and cable connecters.

Battery Cycle Life

Lithium batteries last significantly longer than lead-acid batteries because the lithium chemistry increases the number of charge cycles. An average lithium-ion battery can cycle between 2,000 and 5,000 times; whereas, an average lead-acid battery can last roughly 500 to 1,000 cycles. Although lithium batteries have a high upfront cost, compared to frequent lead-acid battery replacements, a lithium battery pays for itself over its lifetime.

The entire RELiON Battery team is dedicated to providing our customers with the highest quality lithium products currently available. Please get in touch with us to learn about how we can help your team achieve its energy needs in a safe, reliable and efficient way.

 

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