Noob and Golf Cart --- Again!

2 Posts
Jan 30, 2012 12:04 pm
Noob and Golf Cart --- Again!

I read many of the forums posts on golf carts. And frankly it confuses me more than helps me decide on what to do. So I am posting in hope someone will take pity on me and help me figure this out.

At work we have several golf carts. 36v systems. On a goof full charge we can get by 2/3 rds of the day without recharging. I would like to add to the roof of each cart a charging system that will help me get through the day. Being in FL I can count on a full days sun supply.

So my questions are as follows:
Do I really need a converter?

If not how many 12v panels can I add to the system without the need for one?

Other than a controller is there any other way to automatically shut off the panels if there is enough voltage?
65 Posts
Jan 30, 2012 12:41 pm
Re: Noob and Golf Cart --- Again!

Hi Ed,
No pity needed - it's a good question. Smiley

You hit upon one of the essential basic functions of a solar charge controller - to stop charging once the batteries are full so as not to damage them. So yeah, unfortunately, you really need to have a solar charge controller.

Some of the other basic functions of a solar charge controller are:

* To prevent the batteries from discharging through the solar panels when there's no sun
* Optimize the charging algorithm so as to, in effect, pack as many electrons as possible on the battery plates.

And the more advanced charge controllers are smart enough to allow the solar panels to operate at their most optimal voltage (to squeak out the most power from them - up to 30% in some cases) and the batteries at whatever voltage they're at while they're charging up. This technology is referred to as Maximum Power Point Technology (MPPT).

You may have already come across these specialized solar charge controllers for electric vehicles/electric golf carts:

They do actually use Maximum Power Point Technology and, as you might've noticed, make it particularly easy for you to use solar by allowing you to use a normal 12V solar panel and then it up-converts that automatically to match your 36V battery bank in the golf cart. Otherwise, you would need to buy 3 x 12V solar panels (which means smaller panels and probably more expensive per watt than a single, larger 12V solar panel), put them in series for 36V and buy a charge controller that's rated for 36V in and out. Overall this 3x12V solar panels solution would be more expensive and more complicated to implement.

Hope that helps!

PS: For more details on how solar charge controllers work, differences between traditional (PWM) solar charge controllers and the ones that support MPPT check out these articles on the Learn section of our website:

How Charge Controllers Work

How MPPT Charge Controllers Work

Comparing PWM and MPPT Charge Controllers

Be aware that these articles talk mostly about situations where the battery banks and solar panel voltages are the same or where the solar panels have a higher voltage than the battery bank. In your situation the solar panels have a lower voltage - but that's ok, nearly all of what's written is applicable.

And, of course, you can always call the toll free number to get help from one of the knowledgeable technical sales team folks.

"Making Renewable Do-able" (tm)
« Last Edit: Jan 30, 2012 12:43 pm by Sascha Deri »
2 Posts
Jan 31, 2012 11:46 am
Re: Noob and Golf Cart --- Again!

Thanks for the links and information. That has clarified quite a bit.

Has any one done this before? Can anyone suggest a combination of products for my application? Not sure I really need a full blown charger, rather just something to help me round out the day. But I am afraid  to not get enough and waste my $....

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