As readers of this column recall, in last month’s article, just prior to the 2023 PGA Show, I set out a wish list of products and technologies I was hoping to see. Populating this list were some of the following:
- A golf car-type vehicle with a carbon fiber frame that could pass NHTSA’s on-road crash test—LOL;
- In-hub electric motors on one or both axles—LOL
- Improved battery technology—OK;
- Autonomous driving technology—OK!
- New vehicle design pitched specifically to the on-road, neighborhood or e-mobility market—OK!
So, given the OK’s!, three out of five ain’t bad.
Club Car introduces the CRU
Maybe the most impressive product introduction was by Club Car and its new vehicle, the CRU. To describe the CRU as a golf car bigger than life, would not be inaccurate. Quite literally, the CRU is a substantially larger footprint than the conventional golf car/PTV. Here are some comparisons:
Club Car CRU
Club Car Onward (6 passenger)
(Compiled by SVR from spec sheets)
The CRU is quite a bit heavier than the other two vehicles, although this is due in part to the fact that it comes with a 72 volt AGM battery pack, rather than a light lithium battery. The greater interior space of the vehicle allows more comfortable seating for three across, and the seating can be rearranged so that passengers (and driver) can sit facing one another, as the picture to the left shows.
The vehicle in conversation mode is definitely the premier neighborhood electric vehicle, It comes with a hefty $29,000+ price tag, so it will be interesting to see what the market response will be. The CRU has been distributed to selected dealer across the country, no doubt to give the company early information on market receptivity. The larger size will better accommodate families of four or more and should do well where neighborhood gatherings are part of the environment.
Another potential market for the CRU would be in mobility as a service situations in gated communities, college campuses, and large parks.
Autonomous driving system from Carteav
Level 2 autonomous driving systems with proactive safety features are on the way. An Israeli company, Carteav provided information on their system and is apparently collaborating with PilotCar, based in Ft. Myers, FL. The company is targeting communities of any type with boundaries and internal roadways dotted with key destinations such as restaurants, theaters, parks, grocery stores and like. All such destinations can be programmed into the system (along with all sorts of advertisements, no doubt.) The customer can summon the vehicle, enter a destination into the system, and sit back and enjoy the view.
Carteav CEO, Avinoam Barak emphasizes that although the vehicle could carry out its route autonomously, the current fleets in use also have a driver, who also, for all intents and purposes, according to Barak, can also sit back and enjoys the view.
Three aspects of Carteav which set it apart and ahead of its competition: First, it has a vehicle manufacturer with which to collaborate. Other companies have the system but no, as yet, vehicle partner. Secondly, the company has clear cut market segment objective, namely non-golf closed confine venues. And thirdly, the revenue strategy is one of fee-based fleet usage. While such systems will no doubt be incorporated in privately-owned PTVs over the next two-to-three years, the more immediate market will be community environments involving on-call fleets.
Tomberlin moves directly into the emobility market
In a major extension of product strategy, Tomberlin has partnered with eBliss Global, a manufacturer of electric bikes. eBliss Global makes a variety of ebikes for various riding environments, but the principle model in the Tomberlin collaboration is the bespoke line of EVOKE models. The EVOKE line is described as featuring, “The ideal blend of design, technology premium drive train components.” For example,
- An eviolo automatic transmission embedded in the rear wheel hub which automatically responds to variations in pedal pressure;
- 4 Piston Maguar disc brakes;
- A mid-drive motor with torque sensor
Clearly, the EVOKE is a technologically high-end mobility machine capable of meeting a diversity of rider needs in a wide range of riding environments.
From the bike shop to national distribution
eBliss Global CEO, William G. Klehm, in confirming Tomberlin to be the company’s official launch partner, also noted that this strategic alliance would take ebike distribution to a new level, from the local retail bike shop to national distribution through Tomberlin’s dealer network.
Chris Plummer, in charge of business development at Tomberlin, was delighted at the dealer reaction to the prospect of adding ebikes to the showroom floor. “Dealer response,” Plummer stated, “has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Market to test the Tomberlin/eBliss concept
The ultimate test of whether the Tomberlin/eBliss concept will be the market response. Up to this point, although today’s PTV is well beyond a “golf cart” perception, as well as performance and features, the emobilty market and the PTV market have been separate entities rather than a continuum of mobility options.
I believe that much of whether this particular product blend will be successful will depend how well product diversity is advertised and promoted. At the same time dealers must acknowledge that the typical customer for an ebike is unlikely to have the same characteristics as a customer for a PTV—in which case the sales message will have to be flexible and au current.
New exhibitors highlight the new competition = more consumer choice
Club Car, E-Z-GO, and Yamaha have, for many years, exhibited their product lines at the annual PGA Show. More recently, the Big Three have been joined by PilotCar, Evolution, and StarEV. The 2023 PGA Show saw several additional companies with models on display. These include:
- Vivid EV (Fort Myers, FL);
- EV Titan (Sheridan, WY); and
- Atlas (Liberty Hill, TX).
All these newcomers feature mulit- passenger models, along with two-seaters; that is, a diversity of offerings in a fast-growing, fast-evolving market. All come with a plethora of automotive features, from digital displays, battery monitors and apps, top-of-the-line speaker and Bluetooth systems.
The market entry of newcomers, like the above three companies, is buttressed by a new supply chain paradigm that brings in partially assembled vehicles—mostly from China—for final assembly in U.S.-based facilities.
While not exactly new, as all companies in the business import parts from China and now Vietnam, what does seems to be a new twist in supply chain strategy is that a good part of the assembly is done in China and shipped as close-to-complete packages to U.S. companies. Thus, a considerable part of the end product value added is accomplished abroad.
In any event, those in the market for a PTV should be delighted that they have a much wider range of choice than just a few years ago. And, moreover, the list of new entrants seems to grow by the month—aided by the tailwinds of changing consumer perception of golf car-type vehicles and market growth.
We could use an emobility show
In terms of wheeled vehicles the 2023 PGA Show had many exhibitors offering a wide variety of types and product characteristics. There were at least a dozen golf car-type vehicle manufacturers and a half-dozen or more single rider vehicles and models. Then there were the many exhibitors whose product is used or integrated into PTVs, from sound systems, to enclosures, to battery manufacturers.
Bottom line: We, that is the industry, is in need of a trade show dedicated to emobility, both end products and component and system suppliers. I predict we will have such a show in the next couple of years.
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Contact the Author: Steve Metzger at email@example.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.