This Vernon-built electric car can take you shopping or for a round of golf
Electric golf carts have been zipping around golf courses and resorts for decades.
Vernon-based SC Carts, however, had street legal versions that can not only drive along city streets but can plow snow or navigate the links.
“We have a customer who lives five or six kilometres away from the golf course,” company CEO Jeff Holomis told iNFOnews.ca. “He lives in a shared lake community and he’ll use his to go down to the boat and back up. Then he puts his golf clubs on the back and plays a round of golf and drives home with it.”
SC Carts is launching its first “factory store” in Kelowna on April 1 with plans for a second store in Victoria next year and more in the future.
Last summer the company did a lot of test runs in downtown Kelowna in places like Water Street to see what impact the vehicles – which are limited to a top speed of 40 km/h – will have on traffic.
“What we found out is, the average speed during that time of year when it was busy was only 28 to 32 km/h so we weren’t actually the hold up,” Holomis said. “You’re not going to want to drive down the main drag where people are doing 60 or 70 but, in the proper applications, it’s hard to beat as a way to commute. It’s super simple. You plug it in. There’s no maintenance. Plus, it’s enjoyable.”
The carts can travel about 80 km on a single charge in the "real world" (meaning going up some hills) and charge with a simple home plug-in in about 5.5 hours.
SC Carts is the only company in Canada that’s approved by Transport Canada to manufacture street legal low speed vehicles.
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Holomis has a background as a manufacturer in the aircraft industry, based out of Vernon.
In 2010 he was bought out and started dabbling in golf cart rebuilding. He started looking into manufacturing his own in 2015, turning out his first vehicle in 2017.
It took him five years, until 2020, to get federal approval to manufacture a street legal vehicle and he’s still educating ICBC agents on how to insure them.
“When we first started this, we worked with an agent who dug in and went through and figured out what was needed,” Holomis said. “The majority of ICBC agents have no idea there even is this category. When our customers register and insure these vehicles, they go to the agent and are told they can’t insure them. So, they give them paperwork that we provide, which outlines step by step, for the agent, how to look through their system.”
Originally golf carts were manufactured as fleet vehicles, Holomis said. That’s not a market he’s ever been interested in serving.
“As all these golf communities and lakeside communities – like McKinley or Lakestone, where they have shared access – as these grew, there became a demand for a small vehicle that could transport people up and down to the lake or around the resort or community or whatever the application might be,” he said. “That’s what we cater to.”
In 2021 they produced their first street vehicles although, since getting Transport Canada approval, they can convert any of their machines to be street legal by adding things like seat belts and lights.
They are luxury vehicles and, up until about eight months ago, were individually built to customer specifications in Vernon.
Now SC has about 40 standard models in stock that can be bought off the showroom floor, although they can still be built to order.
While they are capable of speeds up to 60 or 70 km/h, they are regulated to only go up to 40 km/h, which is a global standard.
That was based on early testing in the U.S. that found, at 25 miles per hour or 40 km/h, there were fewer accidents and injuries.
While there are no airbags in SC Carts, they have a steel frame for safety, Holomis said.
The company builds about 200 per year with 22 employees in its 13,000-square foot Vernon factory, with motors and some other parts imported.
They’ve just applied for permits to expand by another 16,000 square feet with the expectation of doubling annual production in the next three years and reaching 1,000 vehicles per year within a decade.
The vehicles don’t come cheap.
The 2023 models, which have a new drive train and a larger, 72 volt motor, start at $21,000. One street legal model posted on the company's website is for sale at just over $50,000.
But costs are relative.
Standard golf carts are $14,000 to $15,000 and that’s not comparing “apples to apples,” Holomis said.
ATVs can cost up to $30,000 or $40,000.
A Chev Bolt electric car costs about $40,000 but, like ATVs, they can’t be driven on golf courses.
The carts can be longer than Smart cars, although not quite as wide.
SC Carts has also designed snow plows for its vehicles.
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Holomis lives on Silver Star Mountain so puts winter tires on his six-passenger cart and uses it year-round, plowing snow in his neighbourhood.
He’s clear that these vehicles are not suited to all roads. They’re only legal on roads with a maximum speed of 50 km/h but, realistically, aren’t suited to main roadways. But they’re ideal for golf communities or condo areas like downtown Kelowna where people can use them to run out for some groceries or a meal.
SC Carts has one dealer at Cultus Lake near Chilliwack and single dealers in four other provinces. They are now moving to a sales model where they have their own stores, the first of which will be in Kelowna.
“What I found, over the years, is it can be a bit challenging with dealers,” Holomis said. “Our biggest concern is to ensure our customers are taken care of and our product is represented in an educated format.
“We find, by having our own design studio and factory store, it is exclusively our product in there. We have our staff and they’re educated. It's a higher end luxury vehicle and, to have them sitting beside a snowblower or a snowmobile, you kind of lose that feeling of what they are.”
The Kelowna store will open April 1 at #120 – 845 McCurdy Rd., about one block east of Highway 97.
It will have a 2,600-square-foot showroom and design centre with about 15 vehicles in stock and a couple of sales people. That means customers can drive away in one of the floor models or pick colours, fabrics and other features for their own personal vehicle. There's also an online design feature.
“For us, the Kelowna market is a huge market and it’s kind of the right clientele,” Holomis said.
For more information on SC Carts, go here.
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