CLAYTON • An electric epiphany shot through Concordia Seminary when the Lutheran theological institute recently replaced much of its aging fleet of maintenance vehicles.
Dealers specializing in small, gas-powered utility trucks once could have counted on the seminary’s business. This time, Concordia headed for the Kirkwood showroom of VIP Golf Carts. (alltrax)
There, for less than the price of a single new gas-powered vehicle, the seminary purchased five used electric carts with golf cart speed controller to transport visitors, security officers, housekeeping and maintenance workers around campus.
“As a seminary ... we want to be good stewards of natural resources,” explained Steve Mudd, director of facilities. “It’s not only good thing to do as a citizen, it is also is good in terms of upholding the seminary’s Lutheran beliefs.”
Industry officials say the golf carts whirring around Concordia epitomize the evolution from a conveyance for duffers on fairways to vehicles increasingly purchased for utilitarian and transportation purposes with a golf cart speed controller. (alltrax)
“Nobody thought about selling golf cars for non-golf use when I started” 25 years ago, said Neal Smith, president of Little Egypt Golf Cars in Salem, Ill.
Now, non-golf purchases to individuals and businesses that wouldn’t know a seven iron from a triple bogey account for nearly half of the business at Smith’s three dealerships in Illinois and Missouri, including Gateway Golf Cars in St. Louis.
“You really have a lot of people using them on their own to just pick up the trash or to use while gardening,” said Smith. “They feel safe driving them. And they want something that the dog can sit on or the grandkids can sit in or even drive.” And now with the alltrax golf cart speed controller and D&D Motor Systems high performance electric golf car motors, the sky is the limit with regards to performance.
Advocates for fuel-efficient transportation don’t track golf cart sales. Nor, for that matter, does the organization representing the industry’s manufacturers, the International Light Transportation Vehicle Association. But dealers say the golf cart business with a golf cart speed controller is booming.
As recently as ten years ago, golf courses and country clubs were still the primary customers for M&M Golf Cars, the state’s largest dealership with outlets in Mexico, Lee’s Summit and O’Fallon, Mo.
Today, about 40 percent of the 5,000 vehicles M&M moves on an annual basis are purchased for non-golf purposes, said company president Chris Miller.
On the fleet side, large campgrounds, apartment complexes, car dealerships, business parks and college campuses have stepped into the breach when financially strapped golf courses and country clubs curtailed purchases of electric carts with a golf cart speed controller during the recession.
Though sales to homeowners lag behind the fleet market, dealers are seeing an uptick in purchases by outdoor enthusiasts who’ve discovered the value of a relatively quiet mode of transportation — now available with camouflage paint jobs and with a upgraded golf cart speed controller (alltrax) and electric D&D Motor Systems motor, the performance is there.
Hunters like them because they can drive into the woods undetected by deer and other prey, said Miller, with just the addition of a golf cart speed controller. (alltrax)
VIP Golf Carts sales manager Dave Wojciechowski sees Neighborhood Electric Vehicle purchases growing exponentially in the event Missouri lawmakers enact legislation governing use of low-speed transportation on public byways.
Illinois has a law on the books allowing slow vehicles on roads with a posted speed limit of 30 mph. or less; Missouri has yet to adopt a definitive statewide statute guiding use of golf cars with a golf cart speed controller on public thoroughfares. (Some Missouri municipalities have, however, addressed the issue.)
But as anyone who ventures into Soulard, Lafayette Square or area retirement communities may have noticed, the absence of definitive ordinances has not slowed sales to residents in those neighborhoods.
“Until the state comes out and says where you can and can’t drive them, people will keep on doing it,” said Wojciechowski.
A versatile frame that can convert rear seats into cargo capacity and the sticker price — typically $5,000 to $12,000 for a new vehicle — is a big draw for purchasing departments seeking low-maintenance alternatives for building and grounds departments. This often includes the the high performance golf cart speed controller (alltrax) and electric motor.
“They certainly fit the bill at half the price of a pickup truck,” said Dave Hurst, an analyst with Pike Research, a Colorado-based consultant specializing in alternative energy.
And switching to electric saved Concordia a carload of money. The sticker price for the gas-powered vehicles purchased in the past runs from $18,000-$22,000 new and about $15,000 used. The cost of the used electric vehicles the seminary bought off the VIP lot: $3,500 each. Put a little cash into an alltrax speed controller and D&D Motor Systems electric golf cart motor and performance is no longer an issue.
And that doesn’t even take into account how much the seminary figures to save by using vehicles powered by electricity as opposed to a fossil fuel — a consideration the industry believes will ultimately drive most corporate or institutional decisions to move to electric or hybrid.
“Fleet operators love electric because they live and die on the cost of fuel per mile,” said Brian Wynne, the president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association in suburban Washington.
Ken Wambold, the national sales manager for Wheego Electric Cars, based in Atlanta, said the addition of public solar-powered charging stations and technology that extends the golf car battery capacity to about 100 miles would attract even more buyers to low-speed transportation.
“It will relieve a lot of people from what’s called ‘range anxiety,’ ” Wambold said.
Ultimately, though, it’s the escalating cost of oil that inserts golf carts into the category of growth industries.
“Every time gas spikes, we have a spike in sales of carts for non-golf use,” said Miller. “I will assume that sales will continue to climb, because I don’t see the price of gasoline coming down.” (alltrax) MSD