What to Watch for in Golf Car-Type Vehicles in 2022: On-Going Demographic and Technological Changes Will Drive a New Market

If you were able to attend the 2022 PGA Show in Orlando, or if you went to the website, tracked through PTV and golf car exhibitors, and then went to manufacturers’ websites, you would see that personal transportation vehicles have undergone some pretty amazing upgrades.

While golf cart roots are quite visible in the new vehicles, the currently available models have brought the PTV experience to a new level.  The trend toward ever more sophisticated PTVs began about three years ago with the introduction of the Club Car Onward.  It was the lifted version that caught the eye, and it was an immediate success in the market.  The current models have been upgraded to lithium power and an AC electric motor—and there are abundant accessories, including Bluetooth, a removable attachment for golf bags, a premium sound system, and a host of passive safety and other features (see below).

The Onward and other brands and models now come in a six-passenger model, with four, front-facing seats, which is clearly designed for family use around the neighborhood and on permissible public streets.

Four, front-facing seating is the design benchmark in the new PTV market

Tomberlin Ghost Hawk—Four, front-facing seating: Designed for family use around the neighborhood

Four, front-facing seating is now available across several brands, including Club Car Onward 6, E-Z-GO’s Liberty, the Tomberlin Ghost Hawk, and the StarEV Capella.  These models come deck-out in all sorts of features.  Take the Ghost Hawk for example:

  • Three point safety belts for all passengers.  
  • 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, according to Tomberlin;
  • Lithium battery option—Tomberlin’s proprietary EVOLVE L210 lithium battery pack is an option on the Ghost Hawk and other Tomberlin models, thus aligning the company with what has become a universal industry trend;
  • Dual back-up side mirrors with illuminated turn signal lights—clearly an automotive-type feature that enhance the turn signal-driver interface;
  • Large, seven-inch LCD display, 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, the E-Merge 4 had an impressive presence at this year’s PGA Show.

Key automotive-type upgrades

There are several important automotive-type upgrades that were featured in models at the Show.  First, we saw the introduction of electric power-steering on two brands, Tomberlin and Evolution.  The same two companies also presented vehicles with four-wheel disk brakes.

Electric power-steering—Electric power-steering has advantages over conventional power steering.  It eliminates, for example, the pulleys and mechanical linkages necessary in the latter.  At the same time, via sensors picking up variables such as speed, acceleration, and turning radius, electric power steering can regulate how much power to apply to the driver’s steering effort.

Four wheel disk brakes—In the new models of four, front-facing vehicles, drum brakes have been replaced by four wheel disk brakes.  This is a superior braking system and an important feature of the four, front-facing seating vehicles because of the heavier loads resulting from having four, rather than two passengers.  (The addition of a backward facing back seat would, of course, increase weight as well.)

Other automotive-type features—Bluetooth connectivity, high-quality audio speaker systems LED lighting, front and back, large, automotive-type touchscreen panel showing speedometer, battery state of charge, and odometer.

Proactive safety features on the way

The new breed of LSV/PTV has a good number of passive safety features: LED lighting, turn signals, backup camera, seatbelts, etc.  The next safety upgrade will be complementary proactive features, such as front collision automatic braking, lane correction warning, and pedestrian detection.  No current model LSV/PTV has these features, but

Next—good enclosures assuring all weather use

All weather driving is the next big hurdle for LSVs.  While there are enclosures available, and have been for some time, they are of the soft canvas/vinyl variety, which are cumbersome to put on and take off and hardly stylish.  As far as manufacturers are concerned, they have not up to this point put much emphasis on this feature.  

As LSVs take to public roads and are used extensively in place of conventional automobiles for short trips around the neighbor and to the local grocery store or fast-food restaurant, the need for a comfort-providing, easy-to-use enclosure becomes more important.  At the same time you don’t want to lose that great, open-air feeling that is a trademark of the golfcar-type vehicle, used in times of good weather.

Tomberlin E-Merge with full, hard door enclosure kit—fully weatherized.

The Tomberlin E-Merge pictured here may be the answer.  The door is solid, fitting tightly against  the frame, thus assuring water and wind tightness.  The polycarbonate window and door panel offers full transparency.  Moreover, the door is easily lifted off the base hinge plates, so that in good weather you are back to the open air experience.

Good enclosures of the Tomberlin type also invite greater use of LSVs in more northern climates, where the weather is much colder—thus, an increase in the market in those areas.

Cautionary note on after-purchase vehicle servicing  

As these sophisticated upgrades become increasingly available either as standard or optional features, vehicles become more complex and more difficult to service.  It is therefore important to assess the level of on-going service and maintenance that you can expect in the months and years after purchase.

Thanks to the internet, you can often gain some idea  of the reliability of various local dealers with regard to vehicle repair and maintenance.  Read through the reviews of these dealers and see how they are rated.  The ability, or lack thereof, on the part of dealers to obtain new parts is another telling aspect of an owner’s after purchase experience.

Purchasing a vehicle brand for which the dealer is an authorized dealer usually means he/she has a better pipeline to parts and to technical resources than if not authorized.

Where do we go from here?

The mobility landscape is changing rapidly.  Conventional on-road vehicles once dominated the choices of moving from point A to point B.  No longer—ebikes, escooters, and PTVs/LSVs are seen on public roads in increasing numbers.  These new forms of mobility offer the consumers a wide set of choices, and as technology evolves will become safer and better performing as things progress.

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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