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Golf Cart Battery Guide

Golf Cart Battery Guide

Everything You Need To Know About Golf Cart Batteries

Electric golf carts have become increasingly popular due partly to their environmental friendliness, low operating costs, and quiet performance. One of the most critical components of your golf cart is its batteries.

Your cart's battery pack is responsible for powering the cart, and the health of your batteries can significantly impact the overall quality of your cart's performance. If you are looking for replacement deep-cycle batteries or want to make the jump to lithium-ion batteries, we will walk you through all the critical pieces of information you need to know.

This article will dive into the best ways to maintain your batteries, the average battery lifespan, what batteries are available for your cart, the cost of new batteries, and more. At the end of this article, you should have a much better understanding of your golf cart's power source, the best golf cart batteries out on the market, and battery maintenance best practices, so your golf cart stays in tip-top shape.

How To Determine What Batteries You Have and What Voltage

Before purchasing new or maintaining your current batteries, you need to know what kind of batteries you have and the battery pack configuration. Electric carts typically come in 36 or 48-volt capacities (there are a few 72-volt carts, but they are rare).

If you aren't sure what voltage your cart requires, figuring out what you have isn't difficult. If you have standard lead-acid batteries, you will notice that each battery has plastic caps on top, typically 3, 4, or 6 caps. These are the caps of the acid holes in the battery.

Battery Acid Hole Cap Example

To determine the voltage of each deep cycle battery- take the number of caps and multiply it by two. So if you have four caps on top of each battery, multiply that by two, and you get the resulting battery voltage of 8.

To determine how much voltage is required to run your cart, multiply that number (the voltage of each battery) by how many batteries you have in your cart. Use the formula below to determine your battery configuration:

Battery voltage
# of acid holes x 2 volts per hole= Battery Voltage
Using the battery above as an example- that battery would be an 8-volt battery.
 Single 8 Volt Battery
 
Voltage required to power your cart
Battery voltage x number of batteries= Cart Voltage
 
48 Volt Battery Pack Example

 

Pro Tip: Do not attempt to increase or decrease voltage on your golf cart.  There are multiple components on your golf cart that are connected to your battery system and are calibrated to a specific voltage (motor, controller, etc.) Increasing (or decreasing) that voltage will damage your cart.

How Golf Cart Batteries Power Your Cart

*Feel free to skip to "How To Maintain Your Golf Cart's Batteries" if you don't care about the technicalities*

Electric golf carts work by using the energy provided by the batteries to power the cart. Simple enough. However, to help you better understand, let's explain some terms and give you an analogy to tie it all together. Voltage refers to the measure of the pressure that allows electrons to flow, while amperage is a measure of the volume of electrons.

A typical illustration used to help explain this is the concept of a river. The voltage would refer to how fast the water flows. The amperage would refer to the volume of water. When it comes to safety, a battery's amperage is the primary concern. A current with 2000 volts would pose the same danger as a current with 100 volts, but small increases in amperage can do serious harm very quickly.

A small stream (amps) that flows quickly (voltage) is not nearly as dangerous as a deep river (amp) with a small current (voltage). With all of that out of the way, let's discuss the battery configurations required to increase the voltage or the amp-hour capacity of your electric cart.

Hooking Batteries In Series

If you hook up two or more cart batteries in SERIES, you will increase the voltage without changing the amp hours. In this connection, you will connect the negative terminal of one battery to the positive terminal of another battery. As your "chain" of batteries grows, you pull the voltage from each battery that came before it.

For example, if you have six 8V batteries hooked up in parallel, you would get 48 volts (6x8). This is how all lead-acid batteries work in golf carts. See the photo below for an example.

Hooking Up Batteries In Series

Hooking Batteries In Parallel

The other option you have when hooking up batteries is hooking them up in PARALLEL, which increases the overall amp-hours without changing the voltage.

In this setup, the negative terminal of one battery is hooked up to the negative terminal of another battery. The same thing is done with the positive terminals. See the example photo below.

Hooking Up Batteries in Parallel

Pro-Tip: Before connecting any batteries in series or parallel, confirm that your batteries and golf cart can accept that type of connection. For example, most Lithium batteries can only be hooked up in parallel, not in series.

 For more in-depth explanations, check out this article from power-sonic. 

Battery Maintenance 101

 If you are looking to extend the life of your current batteries or want to maximize the life of newly purchased batteries, here are a few tips:

1. Use a proper battery charger.

    Golf Cart Charging Photo

    When it comes to maintaining the batteries on your cart, many people often overlook how they charge their batterieswhich might be the most crucial step.  

    New battery chargers often come with updated technology and safety features that will keep your battery fully charged without some of the negative characteristics of older chargers. Some of those features include: 

    • Intelligent charge curves. Intelligent charging systems allow your charger to charge your golf cart batteries at a higher rate when empty and slow down as they fill to keep the stress on your batteries low.

    • Automatic full-charge shut-off

    • Short circuit and no-load shutdown

    • Over-temperature and over-current protection

    All of these safety features help ensure that your charger fills your golf cart batteries at the proper rate and keeps the risk of battery damage and stress to a minimum. 

    2. Store your cart indoors whenever possible. 

    golf cart under a shelter
    There is no denying that golf carts are made for the outdoors. However, just like cars- the more exposure your golf cart gets to nature's elements, the more corrosion, and wear and tear it will receive.
     
    If you have extra space in your garage, shed, or other covering, storing your golf cart there will go a long way in helping maintain the life of your batteries (and other parts of your cart!)

    3. Avoid extreme temperatures.

    Extreme Temperature Photo with sun and snow
    Extreme heat and cold are not your friends regarding your cart's batteries. Extreme temperatures stress your batteries and will diminish their output and lifespan.

    4. Disconnect your batteries when storing your cart for long periods.

    Battery Wires
    If you are not using your cart for two weeks or more, disconnect them from your golf cart's leads. Even when your cart is off, your battery will still be "trickling" power, which will run down your batteries. 

    How many years should golf cart batteries last?

    If you follow the steps outlined above, you will go a long way in positively impacting how long you can use your batteries and the expected performance of your batteries. With proper care and maintenance, you should see the following average lifespans: 

    • 6-10 years for lead-acid. 
    • 20-30 years with lithium (more on that to come)

    What kind of batteries do you put in a golf cart?

    Golf cart batteries typically come in two battery types: standard lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries. Let's take a look at each one below.

    Lead-Acid Batteries

    First up is lead-acid batteries. Lead-acid batteries are the standard battery in most golf carts (although that is starting to change). These are similar to the battery you would find in your car, but they are not the same (so don't use a car battery in your golf cart!) 

    Lead-acid golf cart battery example photo

    Pros of lead-acid batteries

    • Cheap. Having been around for years, lead-acid batteries are typically a more affordable option for an electric cart. That means when it comes time to replace your batteries, you will have less money you need to dish out (at first... more on that below!)

    Con's of lead-acid batteries

    • Less battery life. Even though well-maintained lead-acid batteries can get you 6-10 years of use, they still need to be replaced more often than lithium-ion batteries.
    • Susceptible to corrosion. Just like the terminals on your car, the terminals on golf cart batteries can get corroded.
    • Requires maintenance. You must maintain water levels and clear off corrosion with lead-acid batteries.
    • Diminishing power output. Unlike Lithium batteries, lead-acid batteries will have less "oomph" the lower they get in their charge. That means you will notice an impact on your golf cart's performance when your batteries are at 15% charge versus when they are at 80%.

    Lithium Batteries

    Next on the list are Lithium-ion batteries. Lithium batteries are the top dogs in battery technology. This new technology provides many enhanced features that make installing them in your golf cart something worth considering. Let's explore the pros and cons of lithium golf cart batteries below.

    Lithium Batteries Example

    Pros of lithium batteries

    • Battery life. Lithium batteries take the cake when it comes to battery length of life. As stated above, well-maintained batteries can expect a lifespan of 20-30 years. For a golf cart, that is truly something remarkable.
    • Power output. If you are concerned about having enough power, lithium-ion batteries are the way to go. Unlike lead-acid batteries, lithium-powered batteries have consistent power output throughout all charge stages.
      • Consider your smartphone- Whether you have a 90% charge or a 3% charge, your phone will still do all the same things without impacting how well it performs. This is precisely how lithium batteries work in golf carts- consistent performance at all charges.
    • No extra maintenance. No need to fill it with water or clean it. Just connect everything and ride on! That is about as maintenance-free as it gets.
    • Significantly increased charging speeds. Another one of the major benefits of lithium golf cart batteries is the charging rate. Lithium batteries can be rapidly charged and typically reach 80% charge in as little as one hour. This increase in charging speed can save you a lot of time in the long run.
    • Significant weight reduction compared to lead acid. Lithium batteries average about 1/4 of the weight of lead-acid batteries. In fact, our UNO™ battery is only 45 lbs. 

    Cons of Lithium Batteries

    The reality is there aren't any real cons to buying lithium batteries when you look at all the benefits you get. However, the only, and we mean "only" downside that there might be to purchasing Lithium batteries is the up-front cost. Even with that, the cost savings that lithium provides you over the long haul far outweigh any upfront costs you would incur.

    What are the best batteries available on the market today?

    While we don't sell lead-acid batteries, we know from experience that Trojan batteries are the way to go. Trojan battery company has been in business for a while and they are the leading battery supplier for many companies. Due to the nature of deep-cycle batteries, these batteries are typically sold as a complete battery pack.

    However, we highly suggest you switch to lithium ion if you are in the market for new batteries (for the reasons stated above). The top players in the lithium market as far as sales volume, are RELiON, RoyPow, and Allied. However, let us take the time to introduce you to the new kid on the block- the UNO™ Lithium Battery. The UNO™ Battery is pretty revolutionary when it comes to batteries.

    Whereas most lithium batteries require you to hook up multiple batteries in parallel to reach various amp hour ranges (90 amp hours, for example), the UNO™ gives you 48V and 90 amp hours in one single battery. For comparison, you would need three RELiON batteries to reach the same amp hours. In addition, its clean and unique form factor makes it as pretty as it is powerful. This gives you the best performance at a fraction of the typical weight of other lithium-ion batteries.

    Update: The updated UNO™ batteries now come with their own charger that includes an AC Port Plug Adapter Kit. 

    UNO lithium golf cart battery and charger bundle.

     

    How much does a new set of golf cart batteries cost?

    Payment Illustration
    • New lead-acid batteries will cost on average $1200-$1500
    • New lithium batteries will cost on average $1300-$2000

    A List Of "Don't Do's" For Golf Cart Batteries

    • Don't use a regular car battery for your golf cart. Car batteries are not meant to be a primary power source and will not work on a golf cart.
    • Don't jump your golf cart with your car. It is terrible for both batteries. Also, if your golf cart batteries aren't working even when you put your golf cart on a charger- you probably have more significant issues at hand.
    • Don't play with your connections. Your golf cart is connected in a certain way to work with your golf cart's systems. As stated above, changing the connections and hooking up in series or parallel may damage your batteries, your cart, and you.
    • Don't take your batteries into the bathtub, pool, or lake. Because it's dangerous.

    Well, that's it, everyone! We hope that this guide has been helpful in getting you accurate and up-to-date information on all things golf cart batteries. If you still have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below or email us at sales@golfcartstuff.com. Until next time!

    BONUS QUESTION: Should golf cart batteries be charged after every use?

    In a perfect world, batteries are charged and discharged at semi-regular intervals. This avoids the batteries from being either severely under or over-charged.

    We typically advise against keeping your golf cart batteries plugged in all the time but individual circumstances vary and this can impact best practices. If you are using your golf cart regularly (daily or every other day), keeping your cart plugged in when not in use shouldn't be an issue.

    However, if you are leaving your golf cart sitting for long periods, this isn't a great idea. Another important factor in this equation is your charger- new smart chargers often have the proper technology to prevent overcharging. Older chargers on the other hand keep feeding the batteries at full blast which is where the real problem arises.

    We would suggest taking your batteries to a local battery store to see if they can test and diagnose your issue. As a long-term solution, if you can switch over to lithium batteries this would be ideal. Lithium batteries have a much more consistent power output and are less susceptible to overcharging issues.  

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    Comments

    AJ - August 3, 2022

    Very thorough and helpful information about batteries! Thank you!

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