Posted by Keith Andrews on 5th May 2014

AC Motors? Why all the hype.....It's the future that's why!

Most new golf cars still come with DC motors and perform just fine, so why all the hype on moving to AC motors? That’s a fair question. The best answer is DC motors make sense and get the job done. They are less money and are proven technology.

DC motors are great for electric vehicles when top end speed is not an issue, maintenance (brush replacement) is not a factor and cost is critical. (This description fits golf cars pretty well). The AC motors start to make sense when more voltage is used and high end speed is desired. The AC motors are capable of higher RPM’s and can easily produce higher speeds, their brushless design means less maintenance cost, the reduced friction increases efficiency, adding to the vehicles range.

An AC motor can give a wider band of power performance generous low end torque along with superior high end speed. In most DC applications, there is a trade off with either low end torque motors or high speed motors, sacrificing one over the other.

The lift truck industry has moved almost exclusively to AC motors for electric forklifts for most of the reasons listed above. Commercial users appreciate the improved range and lower maintenance cost. The sealed motor design reduces the dust and contamination from entering into the motor.

If overall the AC motor is the better choice for other industries what’s the hold up for the Golf industry? Probably cost. If the fleet cars used at golf courses provide the needed speed (under 15 mph), hold up fine during the 3 to 4 year lease period then why spend more money?

It is interesting to see E-Z-GO, one of the leaders in the industry, made the move to AC in the RXV model. The cost difference to the golf course is not significant. This could be a combination of higher residual values at the end of the lease and lower maintenance cost during the lease period. Whatever the reason, it is safe to say that this move by a major brand may pave the way for similar moves from Club Car and Yamaha.

In the long run, the popularity of AC motors will come down to cost/benefit. At this point it appears a cost increase of $500 or less on a new vehicle peaks interest. The long term benefits of lower maintenance cost, improved range and added performance have real value. When we consider commercial applications for electric vehicles, where each of these benefits is magnified, the price difference is more easily justified. Another type of use where the performance benefits shine is the Low Speed Vehicles. Evergreen Electric Vehicles, for example, offers AC Motors exclusively on most of its vehicles yet continues to sell the entry level Legacy Golf Cars with high speed motors made in the USA with AC upgrades at only $499.

We can expect the trend of vehicles equipped with AC motors to increase as the price point decreases and the performance demands of the consumer increases.