This golf cart was designed to transport people and golf clubs around golf courses, but instead it was employed to test the use in electric vehicles of the vanadium redox flow battery. This battery was developed at the University of New South Wales by Professor Maria Skyllas-Kazacos and co-workers. The trials were successful, proving the concept and possibly leading to future widespread use of vanadium batteries in vehicles, backed up by new facilities at service stations.
This new infrastructure would store, recharge and pump vanadium solutions for re-use in vehicles. Charging of spent solutions could be carried out at any time and would ideally use renewable energy sources. Spent solutions could be pumped from a vehicle's tanks and recharged solutions pumped into them in a time comparable to that taken to fill a conventional vehicle's tank with fuel.
The trials were carried out between 1993 and 1997. The cart's lead-acid batteries were removed from under the seats and replaced by two plastic tanks to hold solutions of vanadium sulphate. A vanadium battery (Powerhouse Museum object 98/160/1) was installed behind the seats, and an inverter was placed in the glove compartment. The inverter changed DC electricity from the battery into AC to power the pumps that moved the solutions past the battery's membranes, where electrons flowed from one solution to the other and were then collected at electrodes.
The cart ran along flat and steep roads within the University campus and on a grassed area. Its range (distance travelled between recharging operations) was 35 km. These tests showed that vanadium batteries can perform well in vehicles without being affected by vibration. Since these tests were run, the researchers have developed an improved battery that runs on vanadium bromide solutions. Critically, these solutions have higher energy density than the vanadium sulphate solutions used in the original battery, which means the vanadium bromide battery could give drivers the convenience of a higher range and make investment in the required infrastructure commercially viable.
The golf cart was made by E-Z-Go, one of the first companies to mass produce battery-powered vehicles for off-road use. It is representative of the vehicles made by this very successful US company. It also represents the desire by many golfers, and the need on the part of some, to be transported around a course rather than to walk, the desire to turn a leisurely game into one completed more rapidly, and the value put on the lack of emissions from a battery-powered vehicle. This lack of emissions at the point of use shifts pollution to power stations, but this will become less of an issue as we reduce our dependence on burning fossil fuels to generate electricity.
Debbie Rudder, Curator, 2010
Skyllas-Kazacos M. et al, 'Golf cart project final report'
Rudder D., 'The vanadium battery - a technical development saga' http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/australia_innovates/develop.php