Product Line
Quote Request
Consulting / Testing
Photo Gallery
Beginners Guide to Motors
DC vs AC Golf Carts
Installation Videos
Monday - Friday
8 AM - 4 PM EST

DC vs AC Golf Carts

What do DC and AC mean?

The two most popular electric motors are DC (direct current) and AC (alternating current). People often become confused because both motors convert electric power into mechanical power, meaning they do the same thing (same input and output). But, the way each motor converts electric power into mechanical power is different. Because of this, there are pros and cons to each system that you should consider when choosing AC vs DC.

When it comes to DC motors, there are two main types: Series and Regenerative (Regen) or Separately Excited (Sepex) motors. In this article, we will be comparing DC Regen motors to AC because they are most similar in performance. This article will use a Golf Cart as an example vehicle when comparing the two systems. These same principles apply to other applications such as drivetrains, hydraulics, and more.

Overview of DC Golf Carts

DC motors are simple and very cost effective, making them the most popular golf cart motor for almost 80 years. DC motors are strong, durable motors that can deliver plenty of performance for golf carts, especially on hilly terrain. DC motors can also operate at lower RPMs than AC motors, which is a major reason why DC motors can handle hills extremely well.

A key detail about DC motors is that torque load determines motor RPMs. Under the same torque load, a DC motor will always operate at the same RPM. If I drive a 1000-pound DC powered golf cart up the same hill 10 times, the motor will run at the same RPM every time I drive up that hill. We will revisit this concept shortly.

Overview of AC Golf Carts

AC motors are newer, more complex, and more expensive motors that are gaining popularity in the golf cart market for some key reasons. One benefit of AC motors over DC is that the max speed is higher. AC motors can reach a higher RPM, which can get you a higher top speed for your golf cart (often about 3 MPH more). But, with increased performance comes increased risks. A higher RPM creates a greater risk of overheating your motor and causing permanent damage, so you need to be careful.

Above, we mentioned that DC motors will always run at the same RPM when subjected to the same torque load. That is not true for AC motors. AC motors RPM is determined by the frequency of the power being supplied to the motor. This is an added complexity to AC motors that DC motors do not have, but it has some advantages and disadvantages depending on what the Golf cart is being used for (this concept applies to systems other than golf carts).

DC vs AC Golf Carts: Pros and Cons

The table below compares DC and AC Golf Carts on some important topics, some of which have been mentioned above.

DC Golf Cart AC Golf Cart
Torque Limit Higher Torque Limit Lower Torque Limit
Top Speed Lower Top Speed Higher Top Speed
RPMs Constant RPM Variable RPM
Maintenance Low maintenance required Very low maintenance required
Complexity Low Complexity High Complexity
Efficiency Less Efficient More Efficient
Motor Price Low Price High Price
Golf Cart Price Low Price High Price

Our Opinion on DC vs AC Golf Carts

We think AC Golf Carts are too expensive for the performance increase they offer. Our internal testing has shown that AC golf carts cost about 40% more than DC for about 10% better performance than DC. While there is performance increase for AC golf carts vs DC golf carts, we don't think the cost is worth it.

In addition to cost, we have found that our customers don't need any additional performance to what DC golf carts can provide. DC motors are extremely strong as is, especially when running at 48 volt or 72 volt. A DC Golf Cart can go up to 25 mph, and going faster than 25 mph on an older golf cart is extremely dangerous anyways.

Overall, a DC motor is a better choice for powering a golf cart. DC motors offer high speeds and high torque for your golf cart, all while being extremely affordable and reliable. There is a reason DC motors have been used to power golf carts for more than 50 years.

I only want an AC Golf Cart, where should I buy one?

If you want the extra performance an AC Golf Cart can offer and are willing to pay, we recommend buying a new AC Golf Cart. We do not recommend using AC conversion motors/kits for older cart models because they are not designed to handle an additional 20% performance (top speed, etc). To buy a new AC Golf Cart, we recommend going to your local Golf Cart Dealer.