In an exclusive interview, the CEO’s of the biggest brands in powered trolleys –
John Helas of Motocaddy and David Catford of PowaKaddy – explain to editor Dan Owen what’s brought them together in print for the first time, as they continue to compete in one of the most fiercely contested sectors of the golf industry.
Why have you both decided to talk to GR readers about an issue at the same time?
JH: A big lesson to come from the lockdown periods of 2020 was the importance of following the prescribed instructions for battery care, especially when it comes to recharging Lithium batteries after a long period of inactivity. This is something that affects all powered trolley manufacturers. So, as the main players in the sector, we’ve come together to emphasise this point to your readers before winter sets in and trolleys are used less often.
DC: It makes sense for us to educate our trade partners at this time, because the exceptional growth in sales that both brands have achieved during the past 20 months or so means that many more trolley batteries will be recharged over the coming months, either by new customers less familiar with the battery care procedures or retailers offering popular rental models that are charged up on a more frequent basis before putting them in storage.
What are the problems you’ve encountered with batteries that have not been cared for properly?
DC: When golfers call our customer service departments about batteries not performing as they should, it’s often a simple matter of reminding the caller of the basic instructions that come with each new model. But, on some rare occasions, it can be the subject of safety being compromised that needn’t have happened if the user instructions were followed correctly.
JH: The golf trolley sector is not alone in this respect, because the same is true of the growing number of e-bikes on our streets fitted with Lithium batteries and all the leading bike manufacturers are keen to stress the importance of battery care to avoid problems during its lifespan. Even though Lithium batteries of the size and type we both use on our trolleys are proven to be very safe and long-lasting, there can be faults if they’re not cared for properly, especially second-hand batteries.
Are the batteries you’re using for the latest models top of the Lithium range?
JH: Both brands have invested heavily in the most compact and powerful Lithium batteries on the market, which make the new hi-tech trolleys much more efficient than previous models. It’s also true that these batteries are complex energy sources that generate a lot of power for their size.
DC: We also both offer market-leading warranty periods on batteries purchased in the UK & Ireland, in either the standard or extended formats. This demonstrates the high degree of confidence we share in the Lithium technology and the performance levels that customers can expect from them.
What would you like retailers to do this winter to avoid any battery problems?
DC: Remind your customers who own trolleys, as well as the staff who are selling or looking after the rental models, of the fundamentals of battery care. It comes down to sensible storage and not leaving the battery empty if it’s taken out of use for days, weeks or even months. Ensure the battery is topped up regularly and not just before it returns to the course. And crucially, never leave a battery on an overnight charge unattended!
JH: Just like a laptop, the modern trolley battery is designed to switch off if it overheats, but this can’t be taken for granted, especially on older models that have had lots of use over their lifetime. It’s also important to remind trolley users of the need to protect and clean the battery and its connection, as these elements can also prove problematic if left wet for some time or stored and recharged in freezing temperatures. It’s always much better to be safe than sorry!
BATTERY CARE GOOD PRACTICE
As many trolleys are about to go into hibernation over the coming months, here are some key points to bear in mind to ensure the safety, performance and longevity of Lithium batteries:
- If not going to be used for lengthy periods, it’s advised to fully charge the battery and disconnect the charger. Then before using again, recharge it (top it up) prior to use;
The battery must not be left for longer than two-months without charging or being checked;
- Once a battery has been fully charged (the greenlight turns on), it should be disconnected and not left connected to the charger unattended overnight or indefinitely;
- The battery must be stored and charged on a dry non-carpeted surface;
Batteries should be stored at room temperature and never at low temperatures (under 10°C), while being disconnected from any golf trolley or battery charger;
- Any batteries dropped or damaged in any way should not be used until given a full inspection and capacity check in a fire safe environment;
- In the case of rental models, batteries should be charged in rotation to prevent overuse of any one battery and never charged for longer than necessary;
- Extended range batteries should always be recharged as soon as possible after use – ideally within 12 hours – and they shouldn’t be used over consecutive days without charging.
Customers and staff can be directed to these pages for more information
What is a Lithium battery?
Over the last decade, Lithium (Li) batteries have completely replaced Lead Acid (L.A.) batteries on the golf course. Essentially, because Lithium compounds are more reactive than lead compounds, greater energy can be packed efficiently into a smaller space. This makes Li batteries lighter, longer lasting and better value for money than old fashioned L.A versions.
A Lithium golf battery comprises several rechargeable batteries (around AA-sized) strung together in series and parallel to generate the desired capacity and voltage to drive the trolley.
By law mandated since 2013, they are charged and discharged via a Battery Management System (BMS) wired together with a Protection Control Module (PCM). BMS circuits have greatly improved the performance and reliability of batteries in recent years, which in turn has allowed manufacturers to extend the warranties offered on them.
The PCM acts like a fuse and monitors the battery for any untoward signs of thermal failure.
It shuts down the battery if such signs are detected, often accompanied by a slight smell of burnt rubber. Once a PCM has been triggered, the battery cannot be charged or discharged. There are no serviceable parts inside a Lithium battery. If it isn’t working, then don’t mess with it!