Go Golf Cart Go: The Battery-Powered Solution?

By Julie Rains on 29 June 2008 7 comments
Photo: Fred Jala

Spotted moving along on the roads in my city just last week was a golf cart. Is this solution to high gas prices (a bare-bones battery-powered vehicle) wise or even legal? I’ll tell you about a village that limits gas-powered vehicles in favor of electric golf carts and give you tips on using golf carts for more than just toting around clubs on the golf course.

The Village of Bald Head Island in North Carolina encourages use of golf carts as the primary mode of vehicular transportation and even has an ICE (internal combustion engine) ordinance whereby fees are charged for the privilege of operating an ICE machine. Access to the island is available via passenger-only (no cars) ferries from nearby Southport, NC so residents and visitors typically leave their cars on the mainland. Exceptions are made for emergency vehicles, trams that carry people and their luggage from the harbor to their accommodations, and construction contractors, who arrive via barge.

My sister-in-law and her husband own a house on the island so my husband, our kids, and I have traveled around town in the golf carts. While the kids enjoyed the cool factor, I was concerned about bumps in the road, sharp turns, and sudden stops, which could send them off their seats and into the street. We drove carefully and I held onto the kids and the cart itself. Bicycles are welcome as is walking but the times I have visited, most folks got around via their carts. (Safety tips from the village)

Here are some things I've learned about golf carts; they usually are: 

  • Eco-friendly
  • Less noisy than gas-powered cars and trucks
  • More expensive than you might expect ($5,000 to $10,000)
  • Have few built-in safety features (there may be no seat belts, for example, or any type of restraint that keeps passengers from falling out)
  • Need to be recharged regularly (they can go about 30 miles before needing a charge)
  • Slow and sometimes sluggish
  • Able to carry passengers and groceries

Depending on where you live, you will likely encounter some basic rules relating to golf cart driving and ownership, such as:

  • Drivers must have a driver’s license
  • Vehicles must be registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles
  • Vehicles must pass an annual inspection (related to safety features such as headlights and turn signals)
  • Owners must carry liability insurance

Carts can be transformed into street-legal vehicles as demonstrated by John Auld in the Detroit, Michigan area. He added headlights, windshield wipers, turn signals, seat belts, and more to make his cart legal to drive on streets with speed limits of 35 mph or less.

If you are considering adding a golf cart to your garage, learn more from this ruling by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, research your state and local laws, and be very careful.

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Guest's picture

Gas prices are changing EVERYTHING in this country. I can't think of anything that has occurred over the last 50 years that has infiltrated simply every aspect of our lives, like this current gas crisis. Even 9/11, which was a huge impact on many aspects of our lives, did not have as big an impact as this. Price of gasoline simply crawls into everything we consume and it changes consumption patterns that can disrupt entire sociological systems. Crazy...

Guest's picture

I would love to be able to drive a golf cart around town. Most everything I go out for is within a 2 mile radius of our home. Wouldn't it be great? My parents lived on a golf course and bought a used electric cart for about $2,000. It came with doors to enclose it and could seat 4 adults comfortably. It could be used in rainy/cold weather and didn't take long to recharge. Perfect solution.

Guest's picture

sign me up.

Guest's picture

There is a 70,000 person residential community in Florida called The Villages where you get EVERYWHERE by golf cart. 24/7 365 days a year you can get to 5 grocery stores, banks, shopping restaurants, golf courses, swimming, tennis, hospital, doctors, dentists,etc.
It is an over 55 community, but I always thought would make sense for developers everywhere!!

Guest's picture

I live in California, which is very car-centric as places go, but the rising gas prices are making people think twice about the way they get from place to place. My mother, who lives in a retirement community, just bought a golf cart and uses it to go to the store and other short jaunts. The only problem is that it doesn't have an air-conditioner so she has to wait till later at night to go when it's cooled down.

The main dificulty is finding streets and carts that will be compatable- many streets here are 40mph and the carts are only rated to 35mph when street-rated.

- Suz

Julie Rains's picture

I am pleasantly surprised at the number of places that accommodate golf carts. I hope that cities and towns will become more friendly to alternative means of transportation.

Guest's picture

I'm not an old retired man (or woman), I golf or hit the driving range occasionally, but I can take my golf cart to grocery, Starbucks, Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Coldwater Creek, Longhorn, etc. every major convenience of city. Teens choose to take the golf carts in lieu of parents cars most of the time. You can get everywhere here via GC, over 100 miles of paved paths through the beautiful, natural (ie, trees, etc) green space (30%). Hundreds of carts park at the high school. We have many other amenities in the community, by the way there are only 3 golf courses, but 2 lakes, numerous small ponds, 50+ athletic fields, tennis center/courts, aquatics center, multiple city pools, ampitheatre, BMX track, skateboard park, nature preserves (+580 acres), and small airfield, etc. It is perfect for families, in top 10 places to live in U.S. (CNN/Money Magazine), homes from low $100's to $2+ million, schools are nationally ranked Schools of Excellence, with SAT scores averaging higher than the national average, quality health care, and crime is very, very low. Many major international businesses call PTC home, Panasonic, NCR, etc. I think it is a great place to raise a family. Along the paths, you find, walkers & joggers, stroller pushers, bicyclists, everyone smiles and waves. The teens are even well behaved, they know they will probably see someone they know (parents know). I love living in Peachtree City, GA. We have been here 1 year and our 15 year old daughter loves it, she would not consider moving, (well, maybe to the beach!). Check it out [URL="http://www.peachtree-city.org"]www.peachtree-city.org[/URL].