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Help Center Golf Cart Batteries Switching My Golf Cart To RELiON InSight Series™ 48V Lithium Batteries

Switching My Golf Cart To RELiON InSight Series™ 48V Lithium Batteries


This product review focuses on a decision many golf cart owners face when the original lead-acid batteries start failing - replace with the exact same or consider an alternative brand lead-acid batteries. Until recently, these were the only viable options. You could call the shop you bought your cart from and have them order and replace the lead acid batteries, you could locate a supplier of similar sized lead acid batteries and do it yourself, or you could just buy a new golf cart. Ok, maybe that last option is a bit extreme, but I know owners who do just that.

A few years ago, some of the OEM golf cart manufactures started selling their carts with the option of a single large lithium battery versus the traditional four (12-volt) or six (8- volt) lead acid batteries in 48 volt powered golf cars.

Around the same time that OEM golf cart manufacturers began offering lithium batteries as an option, a few battery manufacturers started producing lithium batteries for the replacement of lead acid batteries in existing golf carts. This opened a new alternative to consider and brings us to this review.

I have a 2017 Yamaha Drive2 PTV golf cart with Yamaha’s AC motor and it came new with six 8-volt lead acid batteries. The cart gets used an average of three times per week on one of our two golf courses, both of which have sizeable elevation changes throughout the courses. After three and one-half years, the original Trojan T-875 batteries were failing and barely able to make it through one round. Based on my research, I decided to go with RELiON InSight lithium batteries, provided at cost by RELiON.

This review focuses on the logic behind my decision, the replacement process, and the result.

The Logic Behind My Decision

Lithium batteries offer several compelling advantages over lead-acid batteries, including:

  • Lighter weight
  • No maintenance
  • Faster charge
  • Retains charge for longer
  • Longevity
  • Direct fit, no modification

The weight savings of lithium over wet lead-acid batteries is one of the biggest advantages. A normal set of lead acid batteries tips the scales at 378 pounds. Lithium batteries pack more power than lead acid, and in the case of InSight batteries, each battery supplies 48 volts and 30-amp hours. You can comfortably replace the six lead acid batteries in your cart with just two lithium batteries. If you go with two lithium InSight batteries, your total weight will be 69 pounds or a savings of 309 pounds! Even if you go with four lithium batteries as I did because of the considerable elevation changes on our courses, your new total weight will be 138 pounds or a savings of 240 pounds!

This weight savings is immediately noticeable in your cart’s moving from a full stop, in its steering and handling. Hauling a minimum of 240 pounds less each time you drive your cart will mean components like brakes, suspension and tires will last longer.

Another advantage of lithium batteries is that there is zero maintenance. You never have to check or add water for the life of the battery.

Because of the chemistry, the lithium batteries charge much faster than lead-acid, typically coming up to full charge after a round in just a few hours. Also, unlike lead-acid batteries that lose their capacity quickly over time (when not left on a charger/maintainer), lithium batteries will still have 80% of their capacity after 60 days and will take two years to drop to 20% of their capacity.

Lead acid golf cart batteries normally last between three and five years and usually have a 12-to-18-month warranty. Lithium batteries are rated to last eight to ten or more years. The RELiON InSight lithium batteries reviewed here, carry a 7-year full warranty and are rated for greater than 6,000 cycles @ 80% depth of discharge.

A consideration, especially for the DIY golf cart owner, is how difficult will be the conversion from wet lead acid to lithium batteries. As it turns out, not difficult at all since the RELiON InSight batteries are a direct size replacement for the OEM lead acid batteries. More on that shortly.

With the advantages being so impressive, why wouldn’t everyone replace their lead-acid batteries with lithium when it is time? There are a couple of reasons I can think of. Many golf cart shops are still unfamiliar with and have no experience with, lithium options for replacements. Similarly, since it is a relatively new technology, few golf cart owners have heard of lithium aftermarket batteries and therefore do not consider them when their batteries die. But the biggest reason is the initial cost outlay difference.

If you are in the market for a new golf cart, possibly your dealer has offered a lithium version as an option. Currently, the lithium option adds between US$2200-$4000 to the regular cart price over traditional lead-acid batteries. Returning to the focus here, replacing original lead acid batteries in the golf cart you already own, a set of six good lead-acid batteries will cost about $1600 plus installation plus another $75 to $100 for a battery fill kit if you want/need one.

Depending on how you use your golf cart, and how hilly your golf course is, you can choose to replace the six eight-volt batteries (48-volt system) with either two, three or four 48-volt lithium batteries. A major difference between the lead-acid batteries in a golf cart and lithium, is that lithium is scalable. That is, you can start with a two-lithium battery system, and if you find you need more range, you can simply add one or two more lithium batteries to your system later on.

Two InSight batteries will provide 60-amp hours and 24-34 miles per charge, three will provide 90 amp hours and 36-51 miles per charge and four will go 48-70 miles per charge with 120 amp hours. The current price for the RELiON InSight lithium 48-volt batteries is two for $2995, three for $4125, and four for $5310. This price includes free shipping to your door, spacer batteries to fill the empty battery slots, a RELiON approved charger (that works through your cart’s regular charge port), and CAN cables (allow each battery to ‘communicate’ data to the other batteries).

Why RELiON over other lithium options? I was impressed by a number of factors including the actual design of their InSight battery, their steps to ensure the safety of lithium technology for this application, and their customer service.

Unlike some competitors, RELiON did not modify existing lithium batteries and components to work in a golf cart environment, rather they designed the InSight from the proverbial Tabula Rasa or ‘clean sheet’ approach. In essence, they laid out everything they wanted a lithium battery to be able to do in a golf cart and golf cart environment and then designed the battery to do that. In encourage you to check out their website to learn more detail about the battery’s chemistry, construction, and impressive ‘unique SuperSmart BMS’ (battery management system) that is incorporated into each battery. They also have a number of very informative YouTube videos explaining the construction of the battery.

Installation

The four RELiON InSight lithium 48-volt batteries along with the charger unit arrived within about a week of ordering and were delivered on a pallet.

The first step was to remove the six 8-volt Trojan T-875 lead-acid batteries from my cart. To facilitate this, I removed the seat and switched the “Tow/Run” switch to tow to ensure that the cart motor and electronics were not inadvertently damaged by the removal and installation of the batteries.

The first step was to remove the six 8-volt Trojan T-875 lead-acid batteries from my cart. To facilitate this, I removed the seat and switched the “Tow/Run” switch to tow to ensure that the cart motor and electronics were not inadvertently damaged by the removal and installation of the batteries.

My cart had an auto-fill system attached to each of the Trojan batteries (this system makes it easier to maintain the correct fill level when adding distilled water for required battery maintenance). After I removed the hose connections, I put duct tape across the fill hole in each battery to ensure no acid sloshed out when I removed the battery.

Next, I used a 9/16 or a 14mm socket to remove the nuts securing the battery cables (be careful to not short across the terminals with your wrench). You can save and reuse the original cables; I discuss this shortly. Follow by removing the nuts on the battery retainer brackets. On my cart, these required a 12mm socket.

Now you are ready to lift the batteries out. The easiest way is to use a battery lifting strap (under $10 at an auto parts store or Amazon) that hooks onto the lift tabs at top of the batteries. Take care, as the batteries each weigh about 60+ pounds and you want to lift each up as straight as possible to avoid spilling out any of the battery acid. You can dispose of the lead-acid batteries at most auto supply shops or battery shops (like Batteries Plus Bulbs) for free. If that is not convenient, call your local recycling facility.

After you remove the batteries, take a couple of minutes to clean out the battery tray of any debris that has accumulated. Also, use some sandpaper to clean the cable ends from your cart that run from the batteries to the motor/controller and from the charging port.