EVs Charge Up Market for Golf Carts

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For golfers in the region, electric vehicles have been part of their game for years.

Today, it’s not unusual to find courses where electric batteries completely power entire fleets of golf carts. Yet the market for these smaller EVs isn’t relegated to golf courses, as their use is becoming more popular in neighborhoods, developments, retirement communities, residential properties and college campuses.

“The market is going way beyond the golf course,” says Carl Stitzel, president of Y-Town Carts in Boardman. The company is a dealer of Advanced EV carts, a line of electric carts that he was introduced to while in Florida.

“When it comes to EV carts, we’re behind the times in northeastern Ohio,” Stitzel says. “The market is still about 40% EV and 60% gas. But every year it increases substantially.”

The North American golf-cart market hit approximately $1 billion in 2022, according to Global Market Insights, mostly attributed to the expansion of golf courses throughout the United States.  Globally, the market stands at $1.5 billion and is expected to grow at a 5% annual rate through 2032, data show.

Stitzel says EV carts are ubiquitous in Florida and patrons use the vehicles to travel short distances to visit neighbors, shops and nearby restaurants. “In Florida, it’s nothing to see people driving to the grocery store in one.”

As luck would have it, Stitzel’s neighbor there happened to be a development agent for Advanced EV.  It was then that he considered applying for an Advanced EV dealership that would cover northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

Last fall, Stitzel launched Y-Town Carts, a luxury cart dealership at 7885 Southern Blvd. that targets the residential and utility user. “We’re not even going after the golf-course market,” he says. “The biggest growth now is in communities – from transportation around developments to using it around the yard for landscaping.”

The dealership sells and rents EV and gas-powered carts, he says. He notices that more customers are inquiring about lithium-battery-powered vehicles.

Electric-powered machines have always been part of Stitzel’s business. He also owns DEL Lift Rentals and Direct Forklift Inc., a materials-handling equipment dealer in Boardman. 

“This is our wheelhouse,” he says. “We’ve worked on electric-powered lifts for 35 years. We kind of had a leg up in this market. So we know what we needed to look for.”

Y-Town Carts debuted during the Canfield Fair last summer and sold its entire inventory. “It surpassed my expectations by five times,” he says.

The key to the EV cart market is the lithium battery. These particular batteries have an extended life and enjoy a much longer range.

Depending on the size of the cart, a driver could get between 60 and 70 miles on a single charge. Battery range also varies depending on the terrain a cart is navigating.

“A 15-minute charge could get you a two-hour run time with a lithium battery,” Stitzel says.

These are not the banal, stripped down carts of yesteryear. They come equipped with luxurious leather seats – from two-seat to six-seat models – and accessories such as oversize tires, headlights, brake lights and independent suspensions.

“These are all street legal,” he says. “They’ve got turn signals, seat belts.”

So far, Stitzel says he’s sold EV carts to residents who live in new developments such as the Westford Lifestyle Community in Canfield and Firestone Farms in Columbiana. Meanwhile, schools, country clubs and other venues have approached Y-Town Carts for rental opportunities used at various

“We’ve rented to Boardman Park, Boardman High School,” Stitzel says. The high school, he continues, rented approximately a dozen for a track meet it hosted there. “They loved them,” he says.

While zipping along in an EV cart across your neighborhood and nearby streets sounds appealing, certain conditions and regulations must be met before a golf cart is legally allowed on a road.

According to Ohio law, golf carts cannot be driven at speeds above 20 mph and are prohibited on roadways with speed limits above 35 mph. Carts can be driven only by licensed operators 16 and over and must come equipped with all of the safety features – seat belts, windscreens, wipers, front and rear brakes, headlamps, tail lights and turning lights.  The carts must also be registered, inspected and insured.

The growing market in the Mahoning Valley helped convince Warrensville Heights-based Lake Erie Golf Cars to open a retail location last summer at 4500 Boardman-Canfield Road in Canfield, says its marketing manager, Joseph Powell.

“We’ve exceeded our expectations,” he says. “A lot of the customers are getting these carts for communities.”

Sebring, for example, several years ago approved the use of golf carts within its community. The city of Cortland in Trumbull County has also approved their use. And last year, Poland Village Council adopted a measure that would establish guidelines for residents to use carts on certain village streets. 

“We serve the whole state of Ohio,” Powell says, and the Canfield location made sense because of its proximity to golf courses, campgrounds and new residential and commercial developments. The new location is Lake Erie Golf Cars’ first outside of Warrensville and its first dedicated retail store.

Powell says gas-powered carts are increasingly hard to find. “Gas carts sell quickly. If you’re using them all day for work, you’re able to fill up instead of waiting for a charge.”

EVs, however, are fast becoming more popular among customers looking to buy them for their own personal use.

“We’ve seen a definite uptick toward lithium- powered batteries,” Powell says. 

Pictured at top: The staff at Y-Town Carts in Boardman includes Robert Waites, transportation; Kim Laboy, office coordinator; Erika Slifka, office manager; and B.J. Nerone, manager.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.