By: Matt Vallez
This article was originally published in Golf Car News Magazine January issue 2012. It has been fact checked and updated for this publication.
Solar and golf cars have been paired together since the early 1990’s, the problem has always been they have not worked well together. They seem like a natural; an electric golf car and sun to recharge the battery system like a match made in heaven. The honeymoon is soon over when the reality sets in that most solar tops do not return enough juice back to the system to justify their existence, let alone the expense.
The solar panels are all similar with claims of collected watts ranging from 150 to 300 and surface voltage of 25-35 volts. These are the numbers hot off the panel. The problem has always been getting the numbers off the panel into the batteries, which are the tricky part. How do you do that and not loose precious energy by converting it into a battery charge. That has been the problem all along with solar as a recharging source it is just not efficient enough.
Well it is now 2014 and solar is popular for a variety of different uses including around the house. The price of the solar panels keeps coming down and the technology keeps getting better. A company from Canada, by the name of Unconquered Sun with experience in the consumer market, household solar. These guys at Unconquered Sun have developed a solar top for a golf car that works. It actually takes 250 watts or 35-volts @ 8 amps and on it way to the batteries is converted to 56.6 volts @ 8 amps. They cracked the code to solar on golf cars by developing advanced propriety technology to boost battery-bound power to the 56.6 volts @8 amps. This level of charge is approaching that of a conventional electric charger, the kind you plug into the wall.
At Nivel we have looked at many solar tops and panels and have not been impressed by any of them. This is the first one that works better than just a trickle charge. In fact this technology is currently in use by the NASA Marshall Exchange and its intramural sports league. They created what is believed to be the worlds first Solar Gator Groomer. It has eight six volt batteries that power the Gators 48-volt DC power train. It is paired with an infield groomer towed behind. The application works great because the vehicle only requires intermittent use; it is a perfect match for the solar top, since a few hours of sunshine easily replenish the power used by the Gator each day.
The bottom line is this is a solar product that actually puts back enough energy to justify having it on the golf car. Now will this replace your electric charger, probably not, unless you only use the vehicle occasionally! Will it lower your electric requirement and charge time and extend battery life. The answer is yes. Now the big question is how much is that worth to you to have less charge time or lower electric requirements. Thanks to the guys at Unconquered Sun the debate about solar is not if it works but is the return on investment enough. If you want to try the latest solar top technology it is now available from Nivel Parts. Update from original the price has dropped, call your Nivel salesperson and find out how affordable it is now.