This topic is a frequently ask one and figured we should lay out the facts in an article for our GEM owners out their and potential owners considering the purchase of a GEM car. Being the GEM car is an electric vehicle it requires batteries. And they better be good ones if it is the heart of your vehicle’s operating system. So lets start at the beginning and get the back story then convey the facts.
Unknown to alot of Gem Car Owners the Chrysler Corp. created the GEM brand and first mass produced electric Vehicle “Global Electric Motorcars LLC” which was later purchased by Polaris. Chrysler Corp. and Lee Iacocca’s idea of creating a vehicle that was in essence an affordable alternative transportation for the masses that was basically powered by clean renewable energy was simply brilliant. Though in the time and day this dream still had a few hurdles to overcome. Mostly related to battery technology. Just as computers and technology have come full circle many times… battery technology has come full circle only a few times. Especially when talking about affordable batteries that will still get the job done.
After much R&D they settled on the Deka Gel 8G31S style battery to power their dream car for numerous reasons we will outline below. GEM owners today have been known to use alternative battery options to power the vehicle because the cost of a true Gel battery is extremely high compared to the traditional lead acid battery with which most golf cart owners are familiar. As with any problem, people come up with different solutions. Which one solves the problem correctly is all in the details.
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Features and Benefits
The benefits of using the original GEL battery installed in your GEM electric vehicle is quite lengthy and for good reason. The engineers at Chrysler Corp. had a daunting task in this day and age to come up with a solution that would power their new EV. Lets review the top reasons.
If you change the batteries in your GEM car it will cause a major problem with the charging system’s ability to properly charge the batteries you have installed. These smart electric vehicles came equipped with a smart charger that was programmed specifically for GEL battery technology and charging parameters. If you change the batteries expect to change the charger or have it re-programmed by an authorized dealer. Another issue, since the sale of the company to Polaris, it is hard to come by knowledgeable dealers to do so.
Be prepared to pay out the nose for re-program or a new charger at the GEM/Polaris dealer. $1000 and up is the usual M.O. for a new charger.
Find yourself going this route anyhow or need a replacement GEM Car 72 Volt Battery Charger? Pete has you covered. Here are some alternative options that will get some power back into your battery bank.
Based on the specific area designed to hold and secure the battery pack. dimensions must be spot on – The replacement and installation of these batteries is quite a task because they are so tightly packed and secured in the GEM aluminum chassis.
Due to the placement of the battery pack maintenance is an issue for good old traditional lead acid batteries because you will need to check the electrolyte (water) level often and fill as needed. Which would be more frequent than a normal golf cart because the GEM is really a high performance EV in comparison. The demands the motor/controller system puts on those batteries is substantial. This is one of the major reasons they settled on the Gel battery because they are Maintenance Free!
Traditional lead acid batteries do not like to get severely or deeply discharged. If they are they become stubborn to revive and will cut the cycle life or life expectancy of the battery in general significantly. AGM and GEL batteries have a great ability to take a deep discharge in stride and recover completely time and time again with the proper charging system and battery charger. Another major determining factor in going with the Gel battery to power the GEM car.
This was the biggest hurdle to overcome because of the competition was tough. (A gas or diesel burning vehicle vs an Electric Vehicle when comparing in ease of use to re-power or fuel its drive train.) They couldn’t very well change the batteries once a month like in a flashlight or AM/FM radio not could they. Nor could you even expect a potential buyer to fall in love with a car that required such general maintenance. So the batteries needed to be large enough to allow for a decent range of use but also allow for many charge/discharge cycles. ( AKA – Cycle Life ) So Lithium looked very promising even then due to the batteries abilities but after cost analysis just not feasible for the average Joe. So back to a lead acid variant that would deliver the goods. AGM – GEL Batteries…. At the time AGM batteries where basically military spec stuff only. So pulling the battery technology from their good friends at the Pentagon they started testing. After much debate and millions spent the GEL batteries became the obvious solution to power the vehicles. Especially if climate was included in the testing because the GEL battery will hold up much better in the colder climates whereas in places like Florida the internal chemistry of an AGM vs GEL battery is quite identical due to the heat.
Designed to be attached in series via ring terminals. As all other components of the system like fuses and charging system. If you switched to a post type battery due to cost savings you would find yourself replacing and changing all your cable ends. So surely not ideal. At the very least make sure you choose a stud type termination for the batteries you choose for your GEM car. If you live in warmer climate an AGM battery like the Trojan is a good alternative and might save you a few bucks without sacrificing performance or service life to much.
Now that the facts have been conveyed it should be obvious to anyone why you should replace the original Gem Car gel batteries with more of the same.
Otherwise, overall performance (speed and range) will be limited as will service life based on the amount of charge/discharge cycles of said battery. Not to mention the hassle of trying to maintain a flooded battery.
Traditional lead acid batteries are good for approx 200-250 cycles at 50% D.O.D. (Depth of Discharge) so figure 2-3 yrs life if using only recreational. Even less if using for transportation and or you do not keep up with the water levels!
Whereas with the GEL battery you can expect a service life more like double that for similar usage and no maintenance issues whatsoever other than the need to always charge the battery bank back up to 100% after every use and store in the same condition.