Looking at Key Trends in PTV Product Development

You could not come away from the 2022 PGA Show last January without an air of excitement in the way golf car-type vehicles have evolved from golf carts to showpieces The range of up grades on display at the Show was indeed impressive. For example, what is listed below pertains to the Tomberlin Ghost Hawk, but could be found in other brands as well:

Tomberlin Ghost Hawk–4 front facing seats
  • Three point safety belts for all passengers—while three point safety belts are usually provided for driver and passenger in the front seat—required for LSVs, Tomberlin’s Ghost Hawk provides this safety feature for passengers in the rear bank of seats, as well. This is enabled by a frame-integrated front and rear roof supports, allowing three-point safety belts for passengers in the front and rear seats. This safety feature is ahead of similar vehicles which allow only lap-type safety belts (2-pint) for the rear seats.
  • Fully integrated rearview camera—while not yet a NHTSA requirement for LSV certification at this time, Tomberlin has jumped ahead of its competition with this feature;
  • Electric power steering—an industry first for Tomberlin, but sure to be emulated by others;
  • Lithium battery, either standard or an option—Lithium power now dominates new industry models. Most brands have chosen to integrate the battery management system into the drive train such that the solutions are deemed unique. In practical terms this means that the battery must be replaced with the unique BMS supplied by the manufacturer.
  • Dual back-up side mirrors with illuminated turn signal lights—clearly an automotive-type feature that enhance the turn signal-driver interface;
  • Large LCD displays, working in conjunction with the rearview camera and displays the odometer and speedometer;
  • Four-wheel hydraulic brakes (front disk brakes, back drum brakes)—While not new, this important safety feature sets the Ghost Hawk apart from Club Car’s popular Onward

Along with a lifted frame, 14-inch wheels, and some dazzling body paint choices, PTVs at the 2022 PGA Show set new highs in features and styling. Ready or not these vehicles are ready for the (public) road.

Four-front facing seating caters to family/group travel

Another clear product development trend is the four-front facing seating arrangement. Front-facing seating was usually put into the shuttle category with the target market being resorts and campgrounds. Now, the four-front facing seating arrangement responds to the fact that the PTV has become a family conveyance.

The newly introduced E-Z-GO Liberty is now available at dealers (or can be ordered through dealers) and is a four-front facing vehicle. Another aspect of it, which differentiates it from E-Z-GO’s shuttle models is its relatively short length of 106.5 inches, as compared to competitor models exceeding 120 inches. In other words, the frame is not extended to accommodate passenger facing backwards. The company states that the shorter wheelbase lends itself to greater stability and a tighter turning radius.

Factors which will drive the PTV market

E-Z-GO Liberty–4 front facing seating

In its latest comprehensive market analysis for the industry, Small Vehicle Resource forecasts double digit growth for the PTV market. This bullish outlook is based on factors both external and internal to the market.

External factors, not directly related to the industry or market:

  • Rising gas prices, making PTVs a very attractive alternative to conventional automobiles;
  • Overall cost of ownership is also increasing attractive;
  • The push for a green economy in which electric powered PTVs fit well in terms of policy objectives;
  • Increasing attention given to alternative modes of transportation by local officials in charge of traffic systems;
  • Internal factors, specific to the industry and market:
  • More efficient sales and distribution, driven by “build-your-own” models direct from the factory;
  • Dealer inventory requirements diminish as dealer-
    ships become more of an information/ordering center, rather carrying a large inventory of new models;
  • Evolving consumer preferences, which increasingly see PTVs as a mainstay of short distance, local travel;
  • Continued upgrading of vehicles, making them more versatile in use and improving performance;
  • Increased imports of partial assemblies with finished assembly in the U.S. are paring the way to more variety in the market—always a source of positive consumer satisfaction;

Personal ownership will be complemented by increasing use of PTVs in fleet services.

Proactive safety features that no one cannot do without

Do not be surprised if the PGA Show 2023 sees PMVs with Level 2 autonomous driving features, such as:

  • Autonomous front collision avoidance;
  • Lane correction alert;
  • Rearview cameras with moving vehicle warning;
  • Pedestrian detection and accident prevention.

This type of proactive safety features, which are common on conventional automobiles, when added to the passive safety features already found in PTVs, will ensure a new generation of full-fledged personal mobility vehicles PMVs. From an oddity on public roads, the versatile, economical PMV is likely to become common place.

Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com.  Or check out our website at www.smallvehicleresource.com, where you will find an extensive database of vehicle models and can make side-by-side comparisons of vehicles based on a full set of specifications.

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