Evans-based Club Car remade its line of Caryall utility vehicles and will begin production in January. E-Z-GO, headquartered in Augusta, started manufacturing a new long-range electric version of its Cushman line of utility vehicles this month.
Whether the new vehicles will result in additional jobs at either manufacturing complex will rest on the success of the products, officials for both companies said.
The vehicles, which resemble golf cars with metal work boxes or refreshment stands attached to the back, are common for golf course maintenance, warehouses, construction sites and campus landscape personnel.
Ross Lyons, the Carryall product manager at Club Car, said demand for the electric vehicles is growing stronger. In the economic downturn, businesses cut back on expenses and held onto vehicles longer.
“We’re starting to see that market free up and more demand for this type of product,” Lyons said.
Lyons said the utility vehicles are starting to be considered replacements for automobiles, where they would be less expensive to buy and maintain.
“Especially in a campuslike environment, it is a viable substitute for vans and pickup trucks,” Lyons said.
Customer feedback helped develop the new products.
Brandon Haddock, E-Z-GO’s communications director, said the Cushman Hauler Pro was designed with a better electric drivetrain to appeal to golf course superintendents who bought gas-powered utilities because electrics didn’t have the range to handle a full day’s work. Superintendents would often prefer electric vehicles because they are quiet and have no emissions, he said, based on customer feedback.
Other markets for the vehicle include campus grounds maintenance, construction sites and sports turf crews.
Lyons said Club Car embarked on a “voice-of-customer” project in 2012 and strived to include as many customer desires as possible into the new Caryall line.
Efficiency and ergonomics were high on the list. “It is a much more automotive cockpit than what we had in the golf cars historically,” Lyons said.
What’s different in the Hauler Pro is the drivetrain, adopted from what E-Z-GO puts in the 4x4 Bad Boy Buggies for hunters. It is a 72-volt AC system – a bigger “fuel tank” than the traditional golf car, Haddock said. In testing, the company said the new utility vehicle can go 50 miles between battery charges.
At Club Car, in addition to the controls and headlights, the company put more efficient engines and electric powertrains in the vehicles, which haven’t undergone such an extensive remake in about 25 years, Lyons said.
The Caryalls are the first vehicles to get a Subaru gas engine. Lyons said the two companies have been working on the collaboration for about two years.
Randy Marquardt, the vice president of global marketing at Club Car, said the new Caryalls could have “dramatic growth” and that would spur the need for additional shifts and staffing levels to meet production volumes.
Haddock could not say whether the Cushman would result in higher staffing levels, but did say the company has grown by 50 workers this year, many of them in Augusta.
“We are investing more in developing more products for consumer and commercial customers than in the past,” Haddock said. “Golf is our bread and butter and it is not going anywhere, but we see opportunity for growth and for faster growth in the consumer and commercial space.”