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The Solar Golf Cart - News, Use And Devlopment

A solar golf cart is well-functioning, commercial example of a solar vehicle. And you can get tax credits when acquiring one. Learn more here.

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solar golf cart
Solar golf carts are one of the so far few solar vehicle commercially available today. For solar powered transportation, they are ideal, since driving around the golf course is a low-speed venture with many stops and a relatively short distance.

With new technology advances and tax credits to mitigate the upfront costs, they are certainly a real alternative to regular golf carts.

Solar Golf Carts - What's Up

How they work

The usual design of a solar powered golf cart is to place solar cells on the roof of the golf cart, and link them to the battery. The PV cells convert the sun's rays into electricity to power the solar golf carts when you move around in sunlight. While not in use during daytime, the battery is charged. A charge controller maintains the voltage and ensures that there is no overcharging and damage to the cart batteries. It has an inbuilt overload and reverse polarity security features.

Solar golf carts produce about 205 watts of power and can run up to eight miles in a day and they extend battery life by about 25%.

The rooftop design aids efficiency, as long as there aren't any obstacles up above (such as trees).

A cool option for any private person or golf course, who already owns a golf cart, is to invest in a solar golf cart kit, which involves either a new solar roof or a kit to mount on the existing cart roof. They are available from several manufacturers and will allow most golf carts to become solar powered vehicles.

The solar roof is available in a range of sizes to fit most golf carts, or you can customize them for bigger vehicles as per your requirements. Though the initial cost may be high, you make up for it by incurring lower running costs for the solar panels. Moreover, you get tax breaks from the government for using solar energy (see below).

Solar golf cart kits for existing cart roofs include the solar panel, all stainless steel mounting hardware, and the controller.

New developments

There have been some recent technological breakthroughs in the field of solar golf carts manufacture. One of the newest forms is amorphous silicon. It creates a three layer cell on top of a golf cart. Each layer is tuned to a different layer of frequency of sunlight. This allows the cell to convert more of solar energy into electricity. A thin layer of amorphous silicon is apt for running a golf cart.

This new type of panels is light and flexible but delivers the same power as other types of photovoltaic cells. They come in standard sizes for golf carts, with detailed instructions so that you can do the installation yourself and are attached to the roof of a golf cart using attached heavy duty double-sided tape.

Usage trends

Despite the fact that there have been a number of commercial designs available for quite some time, the number of golf clubs purchasing these designs is quite low. But the trend is increasing. During 2009, the Jockey Club Kau Sai Chau Public Golf Course in Hong Kong became the first club in the world to outfit its entire fleet of golf carts with solar roofs. The Hong Kong golf course claims savings of over $50,000.00 US by going Solar.

Later the same year, Sebonack Golf Club in Southhampton, NY converted 39 of their 40 Golf carts into Solar, and was thereby the first US olf course to introduce solar powered golf carts. Hawaii Prince Golf Club has also converted 10 of their golf carts.

In Europe, Adeje club in Tenerife seems to be the pioneer with this technology in early 2010.

Some of the benefits for a golf course by investing in solar powered golf carts are reduced running costs due to lower electricity or gas usage, goodwill among current and future members, and golf cart batteries that last longer, hence reducing replacement costs.

Tax credits

In many places, you can get tax credits for acquiring a solar golf cart or even just installing a solar kit on your pre-owned golf cart.

In US a federal tax credit is available, but has become more restricted from January 1, 2011. From this date, the available tax credit is 10% rather than 30% earlier. There is also a new maximum amount of $2,500. However, IRS also stated that: "Vehicles manufactured primarily for off-road use, such as for use on a golf course, do not qualify for a credit." So before opening your wallet, make sure you find out if the particular golf cart you are aiming for really does qualify for the tax credit.

There is also a tax credit for conversion kits in the US. A credit equal to 10% of cost up to a maximum of $4,000 is available for kits that will convert a standard vehicle to plug-in electric drive. Conversion must be made prior to December 31, 2011.

Remember to check for varying rules in different states and countries.

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