Lead V LithiumMay, 2014 Equipment
Why we should switch from lead-acid to lithium batteries on our electric trolleys
Buying a new trolley is a significant investment. They start at around £300 and can be much more. One of the main influencing factors is your choice of battery. Do you go for an 18- or 36-hole option and should it be lead-acid, as is traditional, or lithium, which is much more expensive.
When you know you can have a fully operational trolley for one – significant – price, upgrading is hard to bear.
But the more you look at it, the more reasons there are to increase your initial outlay. Lithium batteries are:
• More reliable and last five times longer
• Much lighter (2.5kg against 7kg for a lead-acid one)
• Half the size
• More environmentally friendly
Yet despite the evidence, British golfers continue to persevere with lead-acid. In Germany, for example, almost 100 per cent of trolley sales are with lithium. In the UK it is just 25 per cent.
So why is it that we remain to be convinced? Is it really just about price? We spoke to Tony Webb, the managing director of the UK’s leading electric trolley brand, Motocaddy, and Cris Simpson, his counterpart at LitePower, who offer batteries for all makes of trolley.
Why do British golfers remain so loyal to lead-acid?
TW: It is just price-led. We believe the slow shift to lithium is due to a lack of awareness rather than any resistance to change. A lithium product is definitely more cost effective. As well as saving money after just three years, you will benefit from many other hidden advantages, like reduced wear and tear on your trolley thanks to the significant weight difference.
What are the main advantages of lithium over lead-acid?
TW: Longevity is the main advantage and thus greater value for money. While lead-acid batteries usually last between 12 and 18 months, our lithium products have a five-year limited warranty. Lead-acid batteries often deteriorate rapidly and are vulnerable to temperature fluctuations, especially during the winter. It’s realistic to estimate that a lead-acid battery may only deliver one season of regular golf. In contrast, Motocaddy lithiums are protected by an integrated Battery Management System and designed to handle at least five years of golf, irrespective of temperature and downtime.
It’s important to note there are different levels of quality. Our supplier produces more than 30 million top-quality batteries each year and supplies brands like Apple and Samsung.
Lithium batteries also offer the best option when it comes to weight, size and speed of re-charge. Lithium can accept top-up charges without causing damage, whereas a lead-acid has to be fully charged each time.
CS: The benefits of using a lighter, smaller, faster-charging, longer-lasting, environmentally-friendly and more reliable unit should make lithium the battery of choice for all golfers.
What misconceptions are there about batteries?
TW: Trolley users expect that a battery will last a long time if it’s fully charged on a regular basis. But a battery is like a shrinking petrol tank – every time you refill it, the tank gets smaller!
CS: That all lithium batteries are the same – they aren’t!
How idiot-proof are batteries?
CS: To get the best from any battery, golfers do need to take some care. But the intelligent nature of lithium makes it easier and safer to maintain.
TW: Lead-acid batteries are easily abused and must be fully charged as soon as possible after use. A lithium battery is much less prone to damage if left in a discharged state.
Has consumer behaviour changed in terms of wanting to take trolleys with them?
TW: We know from research there’s a lot of demand for compact-folding trolleys that can keep the battery in the tray when folded and placed in the boot.
Will lead-acid batteries still exist in 10 years’ time?
TW: Probably, but hopefully not in golf!
CS: Yes, but they will be more expensive because lead is increasingly in short supply. Increasing costs of making, recycling and disposing is likely to result in higher prices.
Why are lithium batteries more expensive?
CS: They followed the development of mobile phone and electric vehicle batteries, and share similar technologies. The bulk of the cost lies within the cells that contain the small amounts of lithium, plus several other rare and expensive compounds. The other major cost relates to the quality electronics that control the battery and allow it to last five times longer than a lead-acid equivalent. Our Lithium batteries are manufactured in a high-tech environment more like a laboratory than a factory.
Caring for lithium
Here are four simple rules for looking after a LitePower Lithium battery:
1. Charge the battery within 48 hours of your last game
2. Disconnect it from the charger within 48 hours of the charge being completed
3. Store your battery until you need it again – LitePower batteries have a very low self-discharge rate and can sit on a shelf for up to six weeks with no noticeable loss of capacity
4. Keep your battery away from extreme hot and cold temperatures.
Will a LitePower lithium battery work in any trolley?
LitePower Lithium batteries are designed to mimic the characteristics of lead-acid batteries currently available. A LitePower battery will work on any golf trolley that uses a heavy lead-acid battery.
The trolley requires no changes, alteration or adjustments. LitePower batteries are already operational on over 65 different golf trolley types in the UK alone. The foot print of a LitePower battery is designed to be smaller than the foot print of any lead-acid battery used in golf, so it will fit all trays and holders currently on the market.