Electric Go Karts …. Are They Really the Next Generation?!?
Much hoopla has been generated regarding the future of karting: are electrics going to be the next wave? Are they the greatest thing since sliced bread? Will they help me sleep at night? Well, I am going to talk about some of the truths and myths of what is being said about electric go karts.
Let me start by saying, electric karts are great; we sell hundreds each year, and the operators are normally quite happy with the karts and their operation. The operators that typically get electric karts have some things in common. They might be indoors where it’s a no brainer: no need for an expensive ventilation system that will be pumping out not only the exhaust, but the warm air in the winter or cold air in the summer and making your HVAC work overtime, causing expensive electrical bills. Also, the electric kart is a great alternative where cities or other municipalities have said “no way” on the noise or pollution of gas powered karts (we have several of those type of installations).
Now let’s discuss some of the truths…. “Electric karts have little to no maintenance.” I will agree on that statement to a point, but don’t forget that ALL karts have (and will need maintenance on) tires, brakes, belts, steering components, seats and pads, seatbelts… want me to keep going? The electronic components are, for the most part, very solid, however, they need to be connected to one another with wires. Wires have connections that are applied by the kart manufacturer. Most will connect those to terminal strips to organize contact points. The vibration from the karts (not to mention the occasional accidental banging into rails or other karts) can cause those contact points to loosen or break. At J&J, we have chosen to not go the old-fashioned route of utilizing terminal strips (all of our connections are made through a circuit board allowing for easy trouble shooting if and when something like this happens), but even with our high quality connectors and waterproof connection points, they can still have issues.
Next truth: batteries and maintenance for them. The weakest points on an electric go kart is the batteries. There is no doubt that the batteries are being strained more so in go-karts than in most every other application. They should be load tested quite often (we recommend weekly) to find batteries that might be starting to fail. If you don’t catch a failing battery early enough, not only will you have one bad battery, it will become 4 bad batteries, as the other 3 will have to work twice as hard to keep up for the failing one. If you catch it early enough, you can put that battery on a lower-voltage battery charger and often times bring it back to life. Also, keep in mind that the batteries are sealed and charging is a fine line of doing it as fast as you can without causing the batteries to overheat. If they get too hot, they will vent and there is no way to put that material back into the batteries: this will typically reduce its lifecycle. We recommend a 1-to-1 charge time during peak operations and actually longer charge times on non-peak to ensure the longest life of the batteries.
Now onto the myths… Number one is that electric go karts require fewer people for operations. That point is only valid if you have a dedicated person to re-fuel the gas karts in the morning or re-fuel later in the day… I will accept that point if it applies (which it almost never does). BUT if it took a certain number of attendants to operate the track during peak operational times with gasoline-powered karts, it WILL take the same number of attendants to operate the karts during peak times with electric-powered go karts. The electric go kart will not do the following ….. yet: make sure the seatbelt is fastened properly and tight, prevent guests from bumping into one another, fix itself after a spin out, properly supervise itself during the session, thank the guest after the race or tell the guests where the exit is when they get out of the kart… to name just a few things. I wish I could admit that it was true that you can save labor money by just buying a different model karts, but it just doesn’t make sense. Guest satisfaction and safety should be first on your list of priorities and making money will follow.
I want to end this by saying again that where electric karts are needed they are great!! But they are not at a point where it makes sense to switch from gas-powered models based on bells and whistles that are not all that they are cracked up to be.