So, you are interested in getting a golf cart, but your first inquiries led to a deluge of confusing information you don’t quite understand. You aren’t sure of where to begin. Should you get a gas-powered golf cart or an electric one?
Electric golf carts are best for those who are looking for a low-maintenance vehicle and don’t take long trips. Gas golf carts are better for those who take longer trips and don’t want to worry about running out of battery. What works best for you will depend on your specific needs.
In the rest of this article, we will explore this issue from a number of different angles. So, read on for an exhaustive comparison between gas golf carts and electric golf carts.
Electric Golf Carts vs. Gas Golf Carts
As we said above, personal preference really dictates which type of golf cart is deemed superior. There isn’t a knock-down right or wrong answer.
There are, however, a number of issues to consider and questions you must answer when weighing the two options. These include:
- Why do you need the golf cart?
- Which type of golf cart is easier to maintain?
- What are the relevant advantages and disadvantages of each?
But before we get to those, let’s cover a few basics.
How Does an Electric Golf Cart Differ from a Gas Golf Cart?
The major difference between electric golf carts and gas golf carts is the type of fuel they use.
A gas golf cart, obviously, runs on gas. The gas is usually obtained from a gas station. An electric golf cart runs on an electric battery which can be charged from a regular electrical outlet (which in turn gets its power from a power plant—be it one powered by wind, solar, nuclear, or coal).
Most gas tanks for golf carts hold approximately five to six gallons of gasoline. Their fuel economy is such that they get roughly 30 miles or so to the gallon.
As a result, a full tank of gas in a golf cart should allow you to travel as far as 150 miles or so. Additionally, gas golf carts usually generate around 10 to 12 horsepower.
On the other hand, electric golf carts run on batteries. As a result, they must be charged regularly, using either a standard electrical outlet or a separately purchased portable charger. Most electric golf carts will get approximately two hours of run time per complete charge or about 35 miles depending on your battery system. Additionally, electric golf carts usually generate around 3 to 5+ horsepower.
We’ll get more into the ramifications of these differences and others below.
Why Do You Need the Golf Cart?
One of the first questions you’ll need to consider is: why do you need a golf cart? Will you use it as originally intended? That is, will it be just a means of personal transport on the golf course every Saturday morning? Or do you have other ideas in mind.
Some people use golf carts to go hunting or camping. Still others use it to go grocery shopping or as a personal transport around a retirement community. There are a lot of different options. The one you choose will dictate many of the specifications you’ll need for the golf cart of your choice. Some factors you’ll need to address include the following.
What Is the Range of the Golf Cart?
This is a critical difference between electric golf carts and gas golf carts.
On a single charge, an electric golf cart will have a range of 15 to 35 miles. This will vary a little bit according to the type of battery used.
A gas golf cart, on the other hand, has a fuel tank with a capacity of 4 to 6 gallons and gets roughly 30 miles to the gallon. The result is an average range of anywhere from 100 miles to as much as 180 miles. That’s a clear edge for the gas-powered golf cart.
Where Will You Use the Golf Cart?
This is another critical consideration. Basically, you should determine whether you are going to be using the golf cart for business or pleasure.
Will you be using it as part of a job like, say, maintenance work on a large sprawling campus? Or will you be using it on the golf course for a relaxing day playing your favorite sport?
If the golf cart is needed for a job, you might need more power to get around more effectively. In that case, it might be better to go with the gas-powered golf cart. Gas golf carts use an internal combustion engine motor that usually generates roughly 10 to 14 hp. Electric gas carts generally only produce 4 to 6 horsepower but can have a lot more torque than a gas golf cart.
However, if you are only using the golf cart to go on a golf course, you might want to stick to the electric golf cart. Most golf courses these days use electric carts because the cost of electricity is lower than the cost of gas as well as the noise factor. Hence, the cost of using electric golf carts is lower than using gas golf carts.
Will You Use the Golf Cart Indoors?
A similar question to answer is whether or not you will be using the golf cart indoors.
Suppose your maintenance shop at the golf course has golf carts inside. If such is the case, you’ll definitely want to go with an electric golf cart instead of gas. Why? Think of the fumes. And the noise. Most places probably wouldn’t even allow a gas-powered golf cart inside a building. That will probably make your decision for you.
Will You Be Modifying Your Golf Cart?
If you enjoy tinkering with mechanical things and intend to add all sorts of modifications and enhancements to your golf cart, you’ll probably want to go with a gas-powered golf cart instead of electric. This is because all the add-ons are more likely to reduce the range of an electric cart as opposed to a gas cart.
Which Type of Golf Cart is Easier to Maintain?
If you’re looking for a golf cart that is easy to maintain, you may want to choose an electric golf cart over a gas golf cart. Both electric golf carts and gas golf carts need consistent maintenance of a few common items like steering, suspension, brakes, and tires.
Beyond that, the electric cart maintenance required will consist of two relatively easy tasks: 1) maintaining electrolyte levels for the batteries on the cart, and 2) maintaining the charge of those batteries at an appropriate level.
Compare this to the tasks required for a gas golf cart: 1) you’ll have to change the cart’s oil on a regular basis, 2) you’ll need to replace the cart’s oil filters on occasion, and 3) you’ll also have to replace the cart’s spark plugs. Clearly, the electric cart is the simpler option.
The last point to mention regarding golf cart maintenance is storage. This applies to both types of golf carts equally. You’ll need to set aside some space for storage—a garage or something similar will probably do. You want to protect your investment from unnecessary exposure to the elements, otherwise, you can expect increased maintenance costs.
Electric Golf Cart Advantages and Disadvantages
If you still haven’t decided which is better, electric golf carts or gas golf carts, let’s go through the pros and cons of each. We’ll start with the advantages of an electric golf cart.
- Electric Golf Carts Are Quiet: Electric golf carts produce nearly no sound. As a result, some residential communities and golf courses insist on electric over gas. Regardless, the lack of noise makes for a more relaxing, more comfortable ride.
- Electric Golf Carts Do Not Produce Fumes: The benefit here is two-fold. First, like the lack of noise, the lack of smelly gas fumes makes for a more comfortable ride. The second benefit is the reduction in the environmental impact of an electric golf cart. This is a huge plus for anyone concerned about the environment.
- Some Electric Golf Carts Can Be Recharged On the Go: Provided the cart has an energy recovery system, the motion of the vehicle can reclaim energy normally expended as lost heat when coasting. This is most effective on the downslope of a hill.
- Some Electric Golf Carts Can Be Programmed to Control Acceleration: Again, this is helpful on hills where the cart can be kept slow on both the upside and the downside to spare wear on the brakes.
- No Storage of Dangerous Chemicals Required: Gas-powered golf carts run on gasoline that must be stored. Gas is flammable and explosive, and accidents can happen. These can be avoided with an electric golf cart.
- Some Electric Golf Carts Produce More Torque for Hills: There is some debate over how well an electric cart handles hills. This depends, in large part, on the type of electric cart under consideration. Regardless, electric carts tend to produce more torque than gas. Theoretically, at least, this means they should be able to handle hills fine.
- Electric Golf Carts Are Cheaper to Operate: One of the big advantages of owning an electric golf cart is the fact that you don’t have to purchase or store expensive fuel. An electric golf cart costs roughly $0.02 to $0.04 per mile.
Those are the advantages of an electric golf cart. Now, let’s look at some of the disadvantages of an electric golf cart.
- An Electric Golf Cart Has to Be Charged Every Few Hours: Generally, the charge on an electric golf cart will last approximately two hours and gives the vehicle an approximate range of 15 to 35 miles. This is enough to last a few rounds and get back home safely.
This may work fine for some uses like a quick ride to a nearby grocery store but will prove wholly inadequate for other uses.
The worst part is it takes a number of hours (usually overnight) to recharge the battery. So, if you are out in the middle of nowhere when you run out of charge, or you are out on the middle of a golf course when you run out of power, there is very little you can do.
- An Electric Golf Cart is More Susceptible to Electrical Problems: Because the power source and its support system is electrical, it is easier for something somewhere to short out during use. For example, some of our sources complained of losing power in the middle of crossing a shallow stream. That is a situation that is hardly ideal.
All right, those are the pros and cons of electric golf carts. Now, let’s look at gas golf carts.
Gas Golf Cart Advantages and Disadvantages
Below is a list of the advantages of a gas-powered golf cart followed by a list of disadvantages. Let’s take a look.
- A Gas Golf Cart is More Convenient: This is, largely, a result of the electric cart’s need to recharge. Gasoline is easy to pour into the gas tank of the golf cart as well as in a small back-up gas can for emergency purposes.
Unless you get a portable charger for your electric golf cart, you’re out of luck if you run out of charge in an inconvenient place. But even with a portable charger such as a generator or solar panel, it takes a long time to charge the batteries of the electric cart.
- A Gas Golf Cart Has More Power: We’ve noted previously that gas golf carts generate roughly three times as much horsepower than electric golf carts. As a result, they are expected to perform better off-road in difficult terrain or very steep inclines. There is, however, some dispute about this which we will discuss below.
- A Gas Golf Cart Has a Longer Running Time: As noted previously, you usually won’t get more than two hours out of an electric golf cart on a single charge. Running on gas, the gas golf cart will likely perform much better in that regard.
Those are the advantages. Now, let’s look at the disadvantages of a gas-powered golf cart.
- A Gas Golf Cart Has Stinky Gas Fumes: It’s true. Gas fumes smell. Gas smells when you put it into the tank, and, again, when it leaves through the exhaust. That is a problem you won’t have with an electric golf cart.
- A Gas Golf Cart Requires Gasoline Storage: As noted previously, gasoline is flammable and sometimes explodes. Storing it can sometimes lead to accidents. Gasoline can also go bad as well, so make sure to maintain your tank if left over winter.
- A Gas Golf Cart Can Be Noisy: Gas-powered golf carts also produce more noise than electric. This may be exacerbated if you modify the golf cart, as some people do. And even if you don’t mind the extra noise, the people around which you drive the golf cart just might.
- A Gas Golf Cart Cannot Govern Acceleration: To our knowledge, unlike some electric vehicles, gas golf carts don’t allow programming of the acceleration to protect against brake wear when going downhill. They rely entirely on pedal work to brake the golf cart.
- A Gas Golf Cart Requires Occasional Oil Changes, Spark Plug Replacement, and Such: Generally speaking, maintenance work on gas golf carts is a little more cumbersome than on electric golf carts.
- A Gas Golf Cart Has a Negative Environmental Impact: A gas-powered golf cart, by definition, runs on gasoline and, therefore, produces harmful emissions which are bad for the environment. Electric golf carts do not.
- A gas golf cart takes a few seconds to get going: When you push the gas pedal, the cart has to start. This can take a second or so, but can be annoying when playing a round of golf.
- A Gas Golf Cart Is More Expensive to Operate: Because a gas-powered golf cart runs on gasoline, which is expensive, they cost more on a day-to-day basis than an electric golf cart. Depending on the current price of gas, a gas golf cart costs roughly $0.12 to $0.14 or more per mile.
All right, those are the pros and cons of electric golf carts versus gas golf carts. We hope they help you make your decision. Now let’s cover a few more considerations.
Purchase Cost of Gas Golf Carts and Electric Golf Carts
In case you were wondering, there is a reason why we didn’t list the purchase price of gas golf carts and electric golf carts in our lists of advantages and disadvantages: they are about the same. In fact, a number of companies produce identical models that only differ by powering mechanism (gas or electric)
Generally, the prices of either cart range from $4,000 to $15,000. Low price models, obviously, will be the basic varieties with few flashy accoutrements. The more expensive ones will come replete with luxuries.
Standard models of either type cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. They come with ordinary features like headlights, windshields, and what-have-you.
There are some gas golf carts made for industrial use that tend to be a little expensive ranging from $8,000 to $12,000. They usually come with a few industrial features like greater horsepower.
One more consideration is the electric replacement batteries used by electric golf carts. At the current time, they are pretty pricey at approximately $600 or so. They typically need to be replaced in 5 or 6 year intervals.
The last point to consider is resale value. Due to the high cost of the electric replacement batteries, used electric golf carts do not demand as high a resale price as their gas-powered cousins. This is either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on whether or not you are buying or selling.
Can Electric Golf Carts Handle Hills?
There is a good deal of disagreement regarding hills and electric golf carts that we briefly hinted at above.
A number of experienced golf users claim that electric golf carts (unlike gas) have a great difficulty climbing hills. In some cases, an electric golf cart has started up a hill only to lose traction and roll back down to the bottom.
In our experience, our EZ GO RXV has plenty of torque and can even go faster than its gas counterpart. Our model can climb up steep hills, but there are some 36 volt models that have difficulty.
Still, we found one former mechanical engineer by the name of John Tinelli who argued quite clearly with a mathematical fact-based analysis that electric golf carts can handle hills just as easily as gas. If you are interested in the particulars of the discussion, here is a link.
Briefly, though, we will cover the discussion now.
The Science of Electric Golf Carts Climbing Hills
In his argument, Mr. Tinelli begins by looking at a gas golf cart and an electric golf cart of the same model, year, size, and configuration. The only substantive difference between the two carts is that one is powered by an electric battery and the other is powered by gasoline.
In this case, he used a 2019 Villager 4 and took the specifications directly from the manufacturer’s website. Accordingly, we find that the electric golf cart generates 13 horse power and 34.5 lb-ft of torque at 1980 RPM (revolutions per minute) while the gas golf cart generates 14 horse power and only 19.91 lb-ft of torque at 2400 RPM.
Mr. Tinellis further states (and he’s got the mechanical engineering degree to back it up) that torque is what makes an object move fast, not horsepower.
Furthermore, electric motors produce a linear torque curve indicating that they generate a large amount of torque at all available speeds. Gas, however, is not linear. The amount of torque produced is dependent upon the revving of the engine.
Using the above stats, it is clear that the electric engine has a higher amount of torque. It is also clear that the gas engine has a higher measure of RPM.
The conclusion is that the electric engine should do fine on hills, and as a sidebar, it should be apparent from the high RPM’s that the gas engine will make significantly more noise on hills.
Okay, so that’s the science of the matter. And yet, there are a number of anecdotal accounts claiming that electric golf carts can’t handle hills very well. Can we resolve this disparity? We believe we can if we take a number of further important points into consideration.
The Age and Condition of Electric Golf Carts Climbing Hills
Electric golf carts come in a number of varieties with different capabilities in different characteristics. Mr. Tinelli looked at one type of electric golf cart in his discussion, one that had just come off the manufacturing line.
That is our first point: the age of the vehicle (and the battery used to power the vehicle). This has two aspects to it. First, there is the production date of the vehicle. Technology is constantly improving. An electric golf cart produced in 2021 will be far more advanced than an electric golf cart produced in, say, 2005.
Electric vehicles produced in earlier years just could not compete with gas-powered vehicles at that time. As a rule, if you have an electric cart that dates back to 2012 or earlier, and you are concerned about hills, go with a gas-powered vehicle instead.
The second aspect is just wear-and-tear on the machine itself. You may find that even a model that was produced after 2012 might not do too well on hills if it has seen a lot of use and could use more heavy-duty maintenance.
The Power of the Electric Golf Cart Affects How It Handles Hills
The next point is that different characteristics of the particular cart may play a role. Consider the fact that electric golf cart motors come in three different voltages.
There is the 36v, the 48v, and even the excessive 72v. The “v” stands for volts or voltage which is, roughly speaking, the electric power produced by the motor (kind of analogous to the water pressure produced by your water faucet). Lower pressure produces less power. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that 36v electric golf carts still have some difficulty on hills.
The Effect of Golf Cart Tires on Climbing Hills
The next point is that the tires of the cart can play a significant role in how well it tackles hills. It is probably unlikely that a cart bearing small, bald tires won’t be able to tackle a hill regardless of whether it is gas or electric.
Off the manufacturing line, though, the standard tires of a golf cart are 18” with wheels measuring 8”. That may, or may not, be sufficient for tackling hills. If you find you are having trouble with the standard accouterments, it is recommended that you switch to off-road tires that measure from 20” to 23”.
Likewise, the tires you should upgrade to are All Terrain Tires instead of the street tires or turf tires that come with the standard golf cart. Don’t overdo it and get Off Road tires unless you are planning on using the cart almost exclusively in rough off-road conditions like sand and mud as they can be noisy.
As you can see, the science of Mr. Tinelli’s argument above doesn’t necessarily contradict the experience of many golf cart users. If you are purchasing a new 48v golf cart, you shouldn’t have much to worry about hills. If you do start having issues, you can swap out the tires for a quick fix.
A Note on Environmental Impact
We stated previously that electric golf carts are more eco-friendly than gas-powered golf carts. This is not necessarily true. Although the electric golf cart runs on electricity, to truly appreciate its environmental impact, you should take into consideration the source of that electricity.
If the power is obtained from a green (or greener) source like a wind farm or solar power plant then that electricity is truly cleaner, and by extension your golf cart is greener. However, many power plants today run off coal. In such an instance, the electricity you get from that power plant to run your golf cart can hardly be said to be greener.
That said, green technologies seem to be on the rise, and if your electric golf cart isn’t truly green now, there is a good chance it will be truly green in the future as new renewable power sources come online.
As you can see, there are a lot of considerations to consider when deciding between gas powered golf carts and electric powered golf carts. Every individual’s needs and preferences differ. We wish you the best of luck in your decision.