06 Jul Why It Is Time to Go Electric for Go-Kart Tracks: A Gas to Electric Go-Kart Track Conversion Case
Today, confusion and misinformation surrounds electric go-kart operations and why they should be considered for a commercial track. Many existing gas track operators look at electric go-karts as an excessive cost with no operational advantages. They consider how gas used to be $4 a gallon and is now under $2 and consider the debate over. This would be like buying a car based completely on its color. Other considerations like environmental impact, noise considerations, clean and renewable energy, are all important considerations but still very indirect reasons to consider electric go-karts.
In reality, the comparison of the operating costs of gas to the cost of electricity has very little to do with a solid business consideration of gas vs. electric operations. Because of the efficiencies of Honda Motors (which most commercial tracks use), the gas costs per year is typically less than five percent of the track’s yearly operating expense. If you saved 75 percent of this cost, you might save $10,000 on a track doing $500,000-plus gross per year.
On the other hand, the main operating cost of a commercial track, labor, can be directly impacted by a well-designed electric go-kart track operation. Labor costs can be 60 to 70 percent of the total operating expenses for a gas go-kart track. With many states pushing to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in less than five years, the potential damage of doubling the minimum wage to a track’s profitability is considerable.
Because of the control mechanisms possible for electric go-karts, the amount of staff required to operate and maintain a well-designed electric go-kart track is substantially reduced. This was the primary consideration that I looked at when I considered changing my 34-year-old gas go-kart track to electric go-karts.
With gas go-karts, we operated with 2-3 people per shift during the week and with 3-5 people on the busier weekend shifts. This was necessary to perform the following gas-related operations:
- Start the gas karts: If the karts weren’t ridden within 15 minutes, we shut the engines off to reduce engine wear and would need to restart them many times a day;
- Fill gas tanks once to twice daily;
- Check the oil at the start of each shift;
- Push karts that spin out anywhere on the track;
- Push karts that are not used each race to the front of the line;
- Control rowdy riders and kids that are out of control with whistles and flags;
- Tell the track rules or start the digital message system; and
- Flag the karts into the pit area at the end of the ride and hope they slow down and don’t keep going around the track.
With the electric go-kart operating system, we projected and currently run the track with one person during the week and two people on the weekend. Here are the features that helped reduce the staff requirements:
- No kart starting. The karts are off between races and on during the race. This is done by radio control;
- No gassing or charging labor: the charging system is built into the pit floor and charges karts automatically;
- The daily checks are mechanical in nature (tires flat, steering wheel still attached, etc.). There are no daily items such as checking the oil;
- Karts have a wireless controlled reverse that the driver can use to back their own kart up when they spin out. The karts have an on-board sound system that tells the driver how to back their kart up and what is the track’s current condition. This is built into the operating system and works automatically;
- An attendant switch allows the track attendant to move all unused karts to the front of the line at once;
- Karts can be slowed down individually when breaking the rules or out of control. The rider gets a message in their kart that they have been penalized by the track and not do so again. This reduces the number of rowdy or out of control riders which reduces spin-outs;
- The track rules are automatically played at the start, middle and end of the race by the Ride Control system;
- And, karts are automatically slowed down at the end of the race, told in their kart that the race is over, to exit the track and to watch the attendant to know where to park.
Why Your Customers Will Love the Change: Performance
Electric go-karts have much more low-end torque than gas karts. They power through turns, up hills and even negate most of the weight advantage of smaller racers to bigger racers. Quite simply, electric go-karts are a dramatically better ride experience. With the on-board race sounds of the Thunder Volt operating system we use, it’s like riding a racing video in real life! The Stockart race engine sound accelerates and decelerates as the kart does, the track announcer starts the race with the green flag and ends it with the checkered flag, and the crew chief gives each racer pointers on how to race better based on how they are racing the kart.
When we switched to electric go-karts at our location, we had planned to operate the old gas fleet on the track as an alternating set with the gas karts at $6.50 per race in one ride and the electric karts at $8 per ride the next race on the same track. We felt the reduced gas kart price would do at least 30 percent of the total rides sold. While both karts run at the same speed, the electric kart accelerates much faster, has the Thunder Volt on-board sound system, turbo boost, and other features making it a much more exciting ride. When the electric karts came on line, we never sold a single gas kart ride again, even though it was substantially less. The end result was that track revenue went up over 15 percent.
The cost savings paid for the new karts and upgrade to the electric system in three years. The ride experience, price per ride and customer satisfaction all have gone up during the same period for a very positive and profitable conversion experience.
The end result is that converting from gas go-karts to electric go-karts can be a very profitable change for your track as well.