Do Golf Carts Have Alternators?

Do Golf Carts Have Alternators?

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There’s a lot of confusion surrounding how the engine of a golf cart works, and that’s because manufacturers have started producing AC-powered golf carts in recent years. An AC-powered motor vastly outperforms DC motors and has several additional benefits on top of that. 

However, the first question that comes into the mind of people is, “do golf carts have alternators?”

What exactly do they create continuous power that charges the batteries and runs the golf cart if they don’t? I will try to provide the answers to your questions right here.

Golf carts run on DC motors, meaning they use starter generators. A generator produces DC current, and an induction generator can produce AC current as well. 

An alternator can only produce AC current, and therefore, isn’t used in older golf carts. However, modern golf carts are manufactured with AC motors, and you can buy AC motor upgrades for your golf cart.

So although golf carts didn’t have alternators in the past, some of the newer models could have it as an option.

Overview of Golf Cart Motors

To understand whether your golf cart needs an alternator, we must discuss golf carts and their different engine types. That will help determine which type of engine uses an alternator and whether a golf cart uses it. 

The golf cart, since its inception, has been built primarily on the fundamental aspect that its engine would run on DC power.

However, recently, manufacturers have started to realize the benefits of using an AC motor. It’s a device that converts and produces power like an alternator and is called a generator. 

Even though they are similar in producing electricity, an alternator can only produce AC current, while a generator produces both DC and AC current if it’s an induction generator.

Overview Of AC Golf Cart Motors

AC motors in golf carts are more robust and rugged than DC motors, but they’re not as common as DC motors. Typically, you will find that the power coming from the sockets in your home and used for industrial work is AC current. 

Golf carts have always run on DC current traditionally, but the benefits of running your golf cart with an AC motor can give you more of an advantage.

Your golf cart motor will run better and smoother overall, and its life expectancy will also be prolonged. The only thing you should keep in mind is that if your golf cart is using an AC motor as its main power, it will be using an alternator. 

One of the main benefits of using a golf cart with an AC motor is having higher RPMs (revolutions per minute).

That means your golf cart will reach higher top speeds. 

In general, the average speed of a golf cart is between 10mph to 15mph. The speed at which the AC motor can go is not because you can go around the golf course faster. 

A higher RPM rate is advantageous because when the golf cart reaches top speed, there will be less stress on the engine, meaning the engine will work less and last longer in terms of life expectancy.

Another excellent benefit of AC motors in golf carts is that they can handle uphills and loads with greater consistency. That means your golf cart won’t slow down when it is overloaded or when you are going uphill because the AC motor has more torque.

The best part about AC golf cart motors is that they have fewer parts compared to DC motors. As a DC motor sends current in only one direction, there will be a systematic degradation of components, while in an AC motor, that current is shifting, and there will be less wear and tear.

Overview Of Golf Cart Batteries

You must be thinking that golf carts have different batteries if they have various engine types. However, no matter what type of battery, all batteries will produce a DC voltage. Therefore, whether you use a lithium-ion battery or lead-acid battery, they will have a DC current. 

These batteries are made in the style that supports your car battery, cell phone, and even your golf cart.

So, how does your golf cart run on batteries that produce DC current? 

That’s where we need to understand alternators and generators.

Overview of Alternators

An alternator is a device that converts mechanical energy to electrical energy in AC current (alternating current). An alternator is connected to the crankshaft (crank pulley) of the vehicle by a rubber belt. 

As the engine turns, so does the alternator. Due to it working on the principle of a conductor moving relative to a magnetic field, it will produce an electromagnetic force.

The alternator will run your golf cart while simultaneously charging your battery. You should note that an alternator routes the AC current it produces through a diode. The diode effectively stops the current from alternating, forcing it in one direction (DC current). 

Therefore, it can power your golf cart’s electrical systems and charge the battery simultaneously.

Overview of Generators

A generator works precisely the same as an alternator. It takes the mechanical energy and converts it into electrical energy. The biggest difference is that an alternator can only produce AC current, while a generator only produces DC current and, in some cases, AC current.

The next difference between a generator and an alternator is that the magnetic field in a generator is stationary, and the armature rotates within the magnetic field. It is reversed in an alternator, which means the magnetic field turns while the armature is stationary.

Does A Golf Cart Use An Alternator Or A Generator?

Now that we know what types of the engine a golf cart can have and the differences between an alternator and a generator, we can see that traditionally, golf carts running on a DC motor would need a generator and not an alternator. 

A golf cart starter generator will simultaneously crank the engine when it starts and recharge the batteries.

Final Thoughts

We discovered that we needed to understand what different types of engines power a golf cart and the devices continuously producing current for these engines. Traditionally, golf carts have run on DC motors and required a generator to start and run. 

However, manufacturers have started embracing AC motors recently due to their increased benefits like increased speed, more torque, better overall performance, and longevity in terms of life expectancy.

Matt R.

Hello, My name is Matt and I'm the founder of Just Golfin'. This site is all about one thing... GOLFING!

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