DIY Golf Cart with Solar Panels

Golf Cart with Solar Panels

Looking to add some solar power to your golf cart? In this article, we’ll show you how to fit a golf cart with solar panels, so you can enjoy free, renewable energy while out on the course. 

Solar panels are a great way to cut down on your operating costs, and they’re also very eco-friendly. With just a few hours of work, you can have your golf cart running entirely on solar power.

Let’s begin at the beginning and tackle the most obvious question.

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    Can any golf cart run on solar power?

    A gas-powered golf cart works similarly to any other gas-powered vehicle. To make it run on solar power, you need to completely change its internal mechanisms. This is not worth the effort. However, it is different if the golf cart already has a battery in place. Such as in an electric golf cart. 

    Electric golf carts come fitted with rechargeable batteries – lead-acid batteries in most cases, lithium-ion or Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries in some instances. Usually, these batteries are charged from a power source after which the cart will run for a certain distance depending on the capacity of the battery. Once the battery runs out of charge, it needs to be charged again.

    Solar panels cannot replace the need for charging the batteries altogether but it helps in boosting the charge of the battery and make it last longer. This means a golf cart with solar panels can cover more distance on a single recharge.

    Now to answer the question, all golf carts with solar rechargeable batteries can be run on solar power, be it lead-acid, lithium-ion, or AGM batteries.

    Equipped with this information, let’s shop for solar conversion kits for your golf cart.

    A guide to buying solar golf cart kits 

    To convert your existing electric golf cart to a solar one, you will need:

    • Solar module
    • MPPT charge controller
    • Connectors
    • Cables

    Before you go ahead and choose a solar conversion kit, you should consider these features in your existing golf cart.

    Golf cart battery’s voltage rating

    The most common voltage rating found among golf cart batteries is 36V and 48V. Knowing the voltage rating of the battery will help you determine the voltage rating of solar panels. They need to match. 

    If the golf cart battery is 36V, the solar panels also need to be 36V. In case you are choosing a 12V solar panel, you should have 3 of them installed to get a 36V total rating. In case the battery is 48V, you should have 4 12V solar panels. 

    However, you may have a booster controller if opting for lower voltage solar panels. While a solar module with higher voltage will work well with any charge controller, the voltage needs to be stepped up when using lower voltage ones. This is vital to charge the cart battery.

    Here are a few examples of booster controllers designed especially for use in golf carts.

    • MPPT – Solar Charge Controller 36v/48v
    • 105-350W Solar Golf Cart Boost Charge Controller With MPPT
    • GENASUN 8A 36V MPPT Boost Charge Controller For Golf Carts

    With these booster controllers in place, you can use solar panels of any voltage to charge the golf cart batteries. 

    If you want to keep the expense to a minimum, install as many solar panels as your golf cart size permits. It is always cheaper to install more solar panels than get the voltage boosted using a booster controller.

    Golf cart roof dimensions

    The size of your cart roof is a vital factor in determining how many solar panels you can accommodate. If it is too small, you may want to reconsider your plans of going solar. 

    However, if you are ready to spend a bit extra on a booster controller, you can still manage to power your golf cart with solar energy.

    Golf cart specifications 

    Not all solar conversion kits are the same. You need to ensure that the one you choose is the right fit for your golf cart. 

    Here are a few popular examples of solar golf cart conversion kits.

    • ENERVOLT Solar Golf Cart Kit 200w 48v
    • PowerDrive Golf Car Solar Panels 165W 36V/48V

    Buying solar golf cart kits is not at all hard. You will find more choices on e-commerce sites as well as from a solar store in your neighborhood.

    Most solar conversion kits are suitable for installation in all-terrain off-road vehicles and not only on a golf cart. Due to this, you will find more choices in online and offline stores.

    A step-by-step guide to fitting a golf cart with solar panels

    Let’s begin with the contents of the solar conversion kit.

    • Solar panel/s
    • MPPT charge controller
    • Terminal connector for battery
    • Extension cable

    Extra tools needed for the job:

    • Permanent marker pen
    • Screwdriver
    • ⅛” bit and drill
    • Nut driver
    • Zip ties

    Time required for the installation process: 30-45 minutes

    Steps for solar kit installation:

    1. Place solar panels on the golf cart roof, making sure that it is flush against the roof and fits in perfectly. The panels need to be placed in such a way that the connector extends from the back of the cart.
    2. Use the pen to mark the position of the snaps of the solar panel on the cart roof.
    3. Remove the panel from the cart roof and keep it aside.
    4. Use the drill to make holes in the marked spots on the golf cart roof. 
    5. Use the screwdriver to screw the self-tapping snaps into the holes.
    6. Place the solar panels in the same position as before so that the snaps are perfectly aligned. Snap the panels firmly into place.
    7. Connect the connector extending from the back of the cart to the extension cable.
    8. Bring the extension cable down up to the base of the golf cart seat and fix it using zip ties.
    9. Install the charge controller on the cart floor using self-tapping screws.
    10. Use the nut driver to remove both terminals of the battery. Screw in the positive and negative ends of the connector.
    11. Connect the charge controller to the ends of the connector.
    12. Complete the connection of solar panels with the charge controller.

    Caution: Do not connect solar panels directly with the cart’s battery. This may lead to overcharging and there is a high possibility of damage to the battery.

    Custom-made golf cart solar roof

    If you find this DIY procedure too complicated and tedious, you can try the custom-made option. You may approach a solar system manufacturer to assemble a solar system to suit your golf cart.

    While designing a custom-made solar system for your golf cart, you should ensure that it is powerful enough to generate enough energy to charge the golf cart battery.

    A custom-made solar system also comes with solar panels, an MPPT charge controller/charge booster, connectors, and cables. You will still have to screw the panels in place and make all the connections.

    The price of a made-to-order solar golf cart kit is similar to that of an off-the-shelf solar conversion kit but you may have to pay an assembly fee extra. To avoid nasty surprises, you can discuss this with the manufacturer beforehand.

    If you are not a big fan of a DIY solar golf cart kit, this is a great way to get the job done. Either way, you will end up powering your golf cart with solar power. 

    Advantages of running a golf cart with solar panels 

    While some of the benefits are specific to golf carts, others apply to all situations.

    Charging battery on the go

    Whether you are driving the cart or playing your favorite sport, the solar panels will continue to boost the charge of the cart battery. This way you can ensure that the battery has enough power to drive you around the course.

    Saves money

    You need to pay every time you charge your cart battery. If you are doing this at home, it will add to your electricity bills. Adding solar panels will ensure that you need to charge the battery less frequently. 

    Reduce your carbon footprint

    When charging the cart battery, you are consuming grid energy, which comes mostly from fossil fuels. This means contributing more to carbon emissions. Adding solar panels means reducing the frequency of charging batteries. This means less carbon footprint.

    Extension of battery lifespan

    With solar panels in place, batteries retain their charge longer. This means more time between recharges and using up fewer charging cycles. Ultimately, this helps in prolonging the lifetime of the battery.

    No delay while charging the cart

    Without solar power, a golf cart can’t last an 18-hole course. This means you either have to stop for recharging or swap carts in between. This is definitely not enjoyable in the middle of an exciting game of golf. Golf carts with solar panels will last you the entire course.

    Frequently asked questions

    Do I need to keep the cart battery plugged into the solar panel system 24×7?

    The purpose of a golf cart with solar panels is to boost its charge and make it last longer. This is needed only when the cart is in use. So, you can connect the solar panels to the cart battery when you are using the cart. 

    When the cart is not in use, you can keep it unplugged. Keeping it plugged 24×7 may result in overcharging and damaging the battery.

    Is it possible to charge the battery using solar panels?

    A good question. But sorry, the answer is “no”. You cannot use solar power to recharge the cart battery. Solar power is only to boost the charge and make it last longer. 

    When the battery is dead or low on charge, to recharge the battery, you need to plug it into the grid. Power from solar panels cannot charge dead or low on charge cart batteries.

    Do I need to recharge my cart batteries the usual way?

    Yes, you do. Installing a solar panel system doesn’t change the way you recharge your cart battery. You need to connect your charger to the grid and get it juiced up. 

    Once it is fully charged, the solar power from the panels can help the charge last the full 18-hole course. Without solar panels, you have to recharge in-between or change carts.

    Is a solar golf cart available in the market as such?

    Yes, they are available. If you are yet to buy the cart, you can go directly for a solar golf cart, instead of buying a conventional one and fitting it with solar panels. In fact, solar golf carts are much superior in performance and functionality.

    Most of these solar golf carts need to charge only once a week. Although the cart price is bound to be higher, it would be worth the extra money spent.

    What is the average cost of a solar golf cart?

    A good solar golf cart will set you back by around $9,000-10,000. This should get you a solar-powered golf cart with 72-cell solar panel, 5.5HP, and a 48Volt rechargeable battery. 

    Typically, the battery charge will be good enough to cover 50+ miles. On a regulation 18-hole golf course, the distance covered from tee to green is anywhere between 3 and 6 miles. This means you need to recharge the cart battery once a week or even later.

    In case you are on a tight budget, there are solar golf carts available in a lower price range. Or you can opt for a pre-owned one. You should be able to find one between $4,000-$4,500. On the other hand, if you are ready to splurge and prefer a solar golf cart packed with useful features, you can find them in the price range of $15-20,000.

    Solar golf carts or solar conversion kits: Which is better?

    The benefits of solar golf carts are too advantageous to ignore. It is a better choice with a clear edge over a converted solar cart. 

    Can operate power tools

    Many solar golf carts have power ports capable of handling power tools. While on the course, this may come in handy to charge or run power equipment. 

    More convenient and better performance

    A solar golf cart is a powerhouse that can run without recharging for a week or so. Moreover, the golf cart being fully factory-made comes with a better finish and more convenience. Performance-wise, a solar panel golf cart is much superior to a golf cart with solar panels add-on.

    No add-on weight

    Fitting a solar panel to the cart roof naturally creates additional weight. At times, this can upset the balance of the cart or lead to its malfunction. On the other hand, the benefits of solar golf carts include weight optimization. They are built for flawless performance.

    Bottom line

    Nothing can be more annoying than your cart running out of charge in the middle of an exciting game of golf. Without solar panels boosting the cart battery charge, this is bound to happen.

    The benefits of fitting your existing electric golf cart with solar panels are many. All you need is an off-the-shelf solar conversion kit and 30 minutes of your time to install it. The solar panels will top off the cart battery while you are on the course. 

    Buying solar panels for golf carts is easy and will save you a ton. So, what are you waiting for?

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