Since leasing a fleet of newly introduced golf cars with lithium batteries in March, River Hills CC has already seen positive results.
The beauty of a new lease cycle is that it can give a property the perfect opportunity to try the latest in new equipment. That’s just what River Hills Country Club in Valrico, Fla., (near Tampa) did when the lease on its E-Z- GO TXT golf cars, which had six 8-volt batteries, expired at the beginning of this year.
Instead of renewing for another period with the TXTs, the property entered into a five-year lease for a fleet of new E-Z-GO RXV ELiTE (an acronym for Electric Lithium Technology) golf cars. Launched in January, the golf cars are powered by lithium battery packs developed through a partnership with Samsung SDI.
By March, River Hills had a fleet of 62 RXV ELiTE golf cars on the property. “Because of the [five-year] warranty and ease of use, it seemed like a home run for us,” says Tom Ritenour, PGA, River Hills’ General Manager.
River Hills, which was founded in 1999 and features an 18-hole, Joe Lee Signature course, had experience using a demo utility vehicle with lithium batteries, and Ritenour says he was already familiar with the RXV golf car model “with normal batteries.” But personnel at Fore Golf Partners, which owns River Hills, did further evaluation of the lithium batteries and decided they would be the best option for the property. It didn’t take long for them to be proved right.
According to Ritenour, the batteries were fully charged within five hours of delivery. Loaded in a single battery pack, the lithium cells charge in half the time, require less out-of-wall power than lead-acid competitors, and cut costs by using less energy.
That last benefit jumped out at Ritenour when he started to see this year’s utility bills for the River Hills cart barn. For August of this year, for example, the bill was $420, compared to $719 in August of 2016.
“Only a few months in, we saw savings on our power bills,” he reports. “It’s leading to significant savings every month, and I don’t see that changing.”
With a reduced amount of time required to charge the lithium batteries, the fleet can also generate extra revenue for River Hills from all-day use. The RXV ELiTE fleet can last three or four rounds per charge, Ritenour reports.
Golf cars with lithium batteries also weigh much less than other fleet vehicles, because the batteries are half the size and a fraction of the weight of lead-acid batteries. While traditional lead-acid batteries weigh 328 pounds, lithium batteries weigh only 49 pounds. As a result, the vehicles put much less stress on the golf course by reducing turf damage and soil compaction when they go off cart paths. Ritenour expects that the lighter weight will extend the life of the cars’ tires as well.
Lithium batteries also offer consistent performance by providing a reliable power source that doesn’t fade over time. The eco-friendly technology is driven by zero emissions, and the batteries in ELiTE vehicles are controlled by an advanced battery management system that monitors efficiency, temperature, charge level, and the health of the batteries, which don’t require watering, terminal-post checkups, and cleaning like traditional lead-acid batteries. As a result, the fleet spends more time on the golf course and less time in the shop for maintenance and repairs.
“We still have to check the air pressure in the tires, and we still have to wash the golf cars,” notes Ritenour. “But the new fleet has given us a more efficient operation.”
Safety and Comfort
Beyond the lithium batteries, the RXV ELiTE cars have additional features that also attracted River Hills to the model, including optional dual USB chargers and a patented IntelliBrake™ system. With this system, a motor brake slows down the vehicle when traveling up or down steep grades.
In addition, an automatically applied parking brake activates when the vehicle is stopped, so golfers no longer have to set and release a brake. Unlike mechanical brakes that waste energy by creating friction and heat, the IntelliBrake provides full-time regenerative braking, a process through which the motor captures the energy typically used to brake, and uses it to recharge the batteries.
The RXV model also includes AC, or alternating current, technology that generates increased energy efficiency, longer run times between charges, and more acceleration and hill-climbing power.
“The suspension is much better in the RXV model,” adds Ritenour. “It feels to our members like they’re driving around in a high-quality vehicle.”
The golf cars are easy to operate as well; a turn of the key on the dashboard puts the car in either forward or reverse.
Although River Hills experienced an initial “speed bump,” according to Ritenour, with its new fleet of golf cars, E-Z-GO, a Textron Specialized Vehicles company, took care of the problem right away.
“When something with the computer would not work properly, the golf car would stop,” he explains. “But we have been educated on everything we need to do to make the golf car operate.”
River Hills, Ritenour adds, has always enjoyed a good working relationship with the manufacturer, which developed the ELiTE Series through a process that began in 2013.
“E-Z-GO has a very cut-and-dried system,” Ritenour reports. “We e-mail in our work orders, and within one or two days, a TechForce™ technician comes to the property to resolve the issue.”
The response is even quicker, he adds, if a concern arises at a time that requires immediate attention, such as in the midst of a tournament.
Golfers at River Hills, a private facility that is located in a gated community, play about 25,000 rounds a year. Ritenour believes the E-Z-GO RXV ELiTE model would be even more advantageous for properties that see a higher number of rounds on their golf courses.
“They would not have to change golf cars between rounds, and they would not have the concern of them dying on the golf course,” he explains.
River Hills became the first property in west central Florida to use the RXV models with lithium batteries. However, after internal communications within the ownership, other Fore Golf properties, including facilities elsewhere in the Tampa area as well as in Ohio and Virginia, have added the fleet to their operations as well.
“It sets us apart from some of the other clubs in the area,” Ritenour says of the RXV ELiTE model. “The membership has a lot of pride in this brand.”