With the PTV market growing, continuing vehicle upgrades, increasing participation in the market, I am looking forward to the 2023 PGA Show considerable anticipation. Manufacturers of golf car-type vehicles obviously do not produce vehicles just for golf, and most followers of the industry, as well as those companies directly involved in it are well aware of this.
In fact it is the personal transportation vehicle, the PTV, that is market segment that is fastest growing and offers the most opportunities for market expansion. We at Small Vehicle Resource (SVR) see the PTV market expanding well beyond golf-centered communities to gated communities in general, suburban neighborhoods and even into densely populated urban centers.
Paradox: All dressed up and no place to go
Back in 1982, when a golf cart was still a golf cart and nothing else, Nicolette Larson recorded a song call “All Dressed Up and No Place to Go.” It did not get very high on the charts, but I happened to remember the song, because the title describes well the paradox of PTVs, as far as trade shows are concerned. The PTV is now far (maybe not that far, but far) from its roots as a 36 volt fleet vehicle with no lights, to today’s PTV with a wide range of performance upgrades and automotive-type accessories.
PTVs are exhibited at the PGA Show annually, which is fine, but is also limiting because the overwhelming theme of the Show is golf, not personal or fleet mobility. This suggests a new show is needed, specifically dedicated to urban/suburban mobility. In the meantime, here is my wish list for the Show; i.e., the innovations in performance and style that will bring PTVs to the next level.
SVR’s wish list for the 2023 PGA Show
There are certain advancements in vehicle performance and accessories that we would like to see at the Show. Here is the list, and also, a judgement as to how likely we will see then there. (Note: This article is peened before the Show. An update in the March issue of Golf Car Options will give readers the actual results.)
>>A crash-tested PTV—A recurring theme with transportation and police officials when it comes to micromobility, including golf ca-type vehicles, is safety. Would it be possible to build a PTV that could pass the NHTSA crash test? If so, it could significantly open the way for greater acceptance of PTVs on public roads and allowed to travel at higher speeds.
A heavier frame could work, but the added weight also has its drawbacks, especially when it comes to driving range. One solution would be to build the frame out of carbon fiber. Strangely, over a decade ago, the Japanese textile firm, Teijin, announced just such a automotive frame. When was this technology introduced? In 2011, over decade ago.
From the Teijin press release at the time: “Japan-based Teijin Limited has announced that it has established mass production technologies for carbon fiber reinforced plastic ( CFRP) that reduces the cycle time for molding automobile frames to less than one minute.“This achievement, the company says, represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in the CFRP industry, calling it a massive step forwards to the adoption of the lightweight, fuel-saving carbon fiber composite in mass-produced vehicles.
In addition, going on with the press release: “To demonstrate its cutting-edge technology, Teijin has developed an electric concept car featuring its thermoplastic CFRP. The concept’s frame weighs in at a mere 47 kilograms (104 pounds), which is approximately one fifth the weight of a conventional automobile frame, according to Teijin.
“The battery-powered four-seater is capable of hitting speeds of up to 37 miles per hour and can cruise along for 62 miles on a full charge. The concept embodies Teijin’s ultimate vision of a super-lightweight, CFRP-framed electric city car of the future.”
One could say, the future is now, but will such an innovation and leap forward be on exhibit at the Show? SVR judgement: Very unlikely. But, perhaps an enterprising manufacturer of PTVs will go knocking on the door of Teijin’s engineering department and place an order.
>>In-wheel electric motors—In-wheel, or hub electric motors not only assure instant response for acceleration and braking, but also lend greater stability to a PTV lane-changing and turning. This is another good safety feature, as PTVs become lighter with lithium batteries replacing the much heavier lead acid variety.
Elaphe Propulsion Technologies among others have produced prototypes that could be adapted for a new breed of high-torque, high-performing PTVs. The potential for such a product in the evolution of market development is, in our opinion, substantial.
In conjunction with a vehicle design that passes the NHTSA crash text, in-wheel motors with an optimized drivetrain could meet the demand for many urban/suburban mobility needs, including personal mobility and last mile delivery systems.
Chances of seeing this technology at the PGA Show? Possible, but not likely.
>>Level 2 autonomous safety systems?
In this case, there is a very good, if not a 100 percent chance, of seeing such a system exhibited at the Show. Carteav, Inc. will be showing off their newly developed autonomous driving system, and SVR will be interviewing their team. Of course there are constant stories about autonomous systems, using conventional automobiles, light and even heavy trucks, but little attention has been given to such systems for small electric vehicles, such as the PTV or light duty utility vehicles (LDUs).
Carteav. On the other hand, has specifically stated that we be primarily focusing on the small vehicle mobility market.
One of the applications will be guiding vehicles around complex residential centers. An example of such a designated route is seen in the picture at the left.
One of the questions SVR will asking when we visit the Carteav team is whether the system incorporates other safety features, such as automatic braking to avoid obstacles, back-facing cameras, and vehicle passing alerts.
>>Enclosure innovations—Yes, Virginia, even South Florida has inclement weather. When does the industry get beyond the vinyl tent structures and hard door contraptions, which, although they work, are hardly an eye-catching fashion item. A stylish enclosure would involve a rakish, curved windshield and solid pillar for closure just behind front row seating. Thus, vehicle design itself is involved and not simply an add-on feature.
One of the attractions of PTVs is that they have retained the open cockpit concept inherited from the fleet vehicle cousins. This is great and a design trademark for golf car-type vehicles. Not so great when it rains, snows, or in cold temperatures. Enclosures that incorporate inherent practicality and style will definitely increase the extent of the market. Likelihood of seeing the dream enclosure? Marginal at best.
>>More efficient lithium batteries at a reasonable cost—Battery packs ensuring 100 miles driving distance with price points at a $2-$3,000 price range (or better), should be the goal of battery manufacturers. This would eliminate range anxiety to a large extent, if not completely. Chances o being on the exhibition floor? It’s a possibility with an LG Electronic Solution designed battery on display and ready to go with Z.ONE the exclusive distributor for the United States.
The companies will be holding a press conference at the Show to launch the product. SVR will be there.
This completes SVR’s wish list for the 2023 PGA Show. Stay tuned for the post-Show follow-up.
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