Global Edition

Low emission alternatives to petrol golf cars

8.30am 9th June 2003 - Management Topics

With the recent introduction of LPG as a reliable alternative fuel for small internal combustion engines, golf clubs now have the choice of petrol, electricity and LPG to power their golf cars. Prior to the advent of LPG, the choice between petrol and electric was influenced by historical, logistical and financial factors.

In the UK the split is 60% and 40% respectively for petrol and electric. In the rest of Europe, however, the trend is very much the other way with 76% electric and 24% petrol while in America we see a 62%-38% split in favour of the electric buggy over its petrol powered rival.

The belief in the United States is that the electric golf car offers better efficiency and more flexibility than the petrol version. For example, the electric-powered E-Z-GO TXT golf car with Precision Drive System allows course operators to specify a golf car with very specific performance characteristics, optimised to suit the topography of individual courses. This golf car is available with three options – all terrain, mild hill and steep hill – and can be programmed to ensure optimum efficiency relative to the design of the course.

The electric golf car is seen to have added benefits from an economic standpoint. The solid-state drive system and high efficiency of the electric drive motor reduce maintenance costs over the lifespan of the vehicle. Electric vehicles generally have up to 80% less maintenance costs than their equivalent internal combustion engine alternatives. Improved battery technology means that with the correct regular maintenance batteries now have a minimum lifespan of at least three years.

Then there’s the fuel storage problem. Ideally, petrol should be stored in underground tanks or bunded storage. Both are expensive options. Some golf clubs are struggling with solving their petrol storage problems as laws governing storage are strengthened and enforced more enthusiastically. In terms of security, petrol can be stolen, whereas electricity is pilfer-proof.

In terms of fuel costs, electricity is known to be significantly less expensive than petrol but LPG has now arrived as a viable alternative.

LPG has numerous benefits: greatly reduced emissions, the fuel is cleaner and safer to use, the period between oil changes can be increased, as less carbon is produced in the combustion cycle, and the fuel can be stored in cost effective bulk tanks above ground. LP gas is unlikely to be the target of pilfering.

The bulk tank installation and maintenance is normally the responsibility of the gas supplier and therefore takes the storage concerns off the shoulders of the golf course.

LPG will appeal to many golf courses that are not on mains gas and already use this fuel for heating and cooking. When purchased in bulk it can be very cost effective and like red diesel, taxation is lower for off road use offering further significant savings.

Calor Gas has produced some interesting comparative figures for petrol and LPG powered golf cars. In order to provide an accurate comparison the calorific value of LPG has to be taken into account and to account for this factor 10% extra LPG consumption is included in these figures.

Petrol – 14 litres per week at £0.80p per litre = £11.20 per week

LPG – 16 litres per week at £0.22p per litre = £3.52 per week

Saving of £7.68 per week per car

Using these figures, with a fleet of 10 golf cars there is an initial annual saving of £3,993.60 (£76.80 x 52). Even allowing for the rental of a 2000 litre tank and electric pump at £283.92 (£5.46 x 52), the annual saving is still £3,709.68. A 32-week year would net a saving of £2,432.00.

Calor Gas

Ransomes Jacobsen

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