Building an NEV from a used Golf Cart

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robertplattbell's picture
Last seen: 10 years 12 months ago
Joined: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 - 08:35
Points: 3
Building an NEV from a used Golf Cart

I live on an island where the speed limit is 35 mph. We have a lot of NEVs, mostly GEMS, of which maybe 20-30 are rentals and maybe another 10 or so are privately owned.

There are perhaps another 20 folks who use golf carts on the public roads, some legally (registered as NEVs) some illegally (just driving an old golf cart on the road, with no lights or other modifications, or registration or insurance). These latter vehicles are particularly dangerous, as they cannot go much more than 15 mph and represent a real road hazard.

As a former Automotive Engineer (General Motors Institute) and Electrical Engineer (Syracuse University) I find the idea of electric vehicles fascinating and the NEV concept to be interesting.

However, after doing the math on even a used GEM electric, I can't make it work out. The cost of a new GEM can be close to $20,000 with options, and even a stripped one is close to ten grand. And dealers are not making deals on these at all.


For the miles traveling annually (GEM even suggest this is about 1500, as opposed to 15,000 for an IC car) the cost per mile is worse than buying a brand-new 8 mpg Hummer.

I am all for saving the environment, but from a cost standpoint, putting an additional 1500 miles on my primary vehicle doesn't cost me a lot, in terms of incremental costs. From an environmental standpoint, I am not sure that 1500 miles a year of electric vehicle travel is going to do much - and may in fact be a negative impact on the environment, in terms of the impact of the construction of the vehicle and batteries - which requires energy to produce as well as the use of natural resources.

There are a number of companies on the web that modify golf cars (which appear to be used models off golf courses) by painting them up, adding lights and other NEV required items, and then modifying controllers, motors, etc. to make them go faster. Most of these companies want $5000 or more for such modified golf carts, which places them in the range of a used GEM.

I am wondering if perhaps a cheaper alternative (and more fun alternative) might be to buy a secondhand golf cart (there are thousands sold every year, off the courses in Florida) and modify it myself - mostly for speed and safety - so I can register it as an NEV.

Also, I am interested in some of the solar panels sold for golf carts, which can charge the batteries in a few days - this seems like an interesting option, probably not cost-effective, but interesting, nevertheless.

I am looking to do this on a budget of about $3000 or less. I used to get a catalog here on the island from a golf cart company that sold all the mods necessary to hop up a golf cart to NEV status.

I am interested in any comments, suggestions, leads on parts sources, prices, etc. as well as hints on legally registering and insuring such a vehicle.

I would rather do this that just write a check for an NEV, as it would be more fun to build something. I have restored some old cars in the past and have the tools and space to do this sort of work. And it would be a fun challenge to do it on a budget, rather than just write a $20,000 check to the local NEV dealer.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Thanks in advance.

Last seen: 10 years 9 months ago
Joined: Sunday, April 24, 2011 - 12:23
Points: 2
Re: Building an NEV from a used Golf Cart

Forget using a GEM, just repurpose a cheap ICE. You can easily do a NEV conversion for just a few $K. Many have done it, though most want commuter as opposed to a NEV. Highway speeds can be had starting around $5K. Check out the DIY EV forum for more info:

Last seen: 1 month 5 days ago
Joined: Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - 15:49
Points: 500
Re: Building an NEV from a used Golf Cart

Golf cart conversion might be fun but what about converting a bug to a NEV? I got the bug NEV kit for 36 volt motor and use it on 48 volt with an Alltrax controller. What is nice about bug NEV is motor is geared down via belt system. Maybe cut the frame down and make a Dune Buggy platform vehicle. I like the bigger wheels vs small golf cart wheels and brakes. If you use Gel Cell batteries you can leave charger plugged in 24 / 7 with an Iota charger and have back up electricity. If you use use Gel Cell battery pack you might have to use 8 Blue tops like I do and keep foot off PB-6 for they don't last too long but you said "an island"? It is too easy to build. Attach motor assembly plate with 4 motor bolts to tranny and wire up to Alltrax and controller to contactor and to fuses and then to battery pack. Hook up Pot box and have fun. The AXE-4865 should work alright for you.
But then again there is nothing wrong with your plan of golf cart conversion. I use a golf cart on the farm and even went from T105 Trojans to T890 and range dropped but then 220 AH battery pack vs 105 AH pack using flooded 8 volters do that. Just plug it in more frequently.
Either way just build it some way some how and have fun.


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