In creator Josh Hein's
words, his Caruca
is a “patent pending, single rider, electric cart on which the rider stands to operate.”
In appearance, the Caruca looks like the illegitimate offspring of a golf cart and a Segway, but (thankfully) performs more similarly to the former.
According to Hein, however, the vehicle he hopes to bring to life via a Kickstarter campaign this spring offers a suite of distinct advantages over the traditional golf cart.
The idea started as many business ventures and deals do—on the golf course. Hein is a busy guy. He has a wife and 18-month-old child at home, not to mention a full time job as a corporate sales manager at Citrix. Golf was one of his favorite outlets and hobbies, but as a self-admittedly impatient guy, he was frustrated the game took so long and kept him away from his family.
One day, he came to the course equipped with a notebook and a mission. He played hole after hole, writing down every event where he felt he was losing time. What he found again and again was that he was “waiting on the tee box for the guys in front of me to find and hit their balls.”
Basically, when you have a bunch of people in multi-person carts all having to wait their turn to find their ball, it slows down the game pace. And he was having none of it.
That's when the idea for the Caruca was born. Never doubt the innovation that being sweaty and impatient can bring about.
To raise funds to begin tooling and set up manufacturing, Hein is running a Kickstarter campaign through May 14. He hopes to raise at least $20,000 and is near the halfway mark with 22 days left to go. He’s got stretch goals all the way up to $200,000, which would cover an initial production run, sales and marketing.
So now that we understand the basics of what the Caruca is, why would anyone buy one? What are the advantages? Hein went over four basic concepts which make the Caruca a valid competitor to the long-held classic golf cart design.
The first and most important factor in the utility of the Caruca is its ability to speed up the pace of golf. As I went over previously, Hein loves golf, but isn't in love with the speed of the game. Having each rider independently seek out and find their balls simultaneously can shorten the length of a round by about 35 to 45minutes, he says. Other sources he's seen have cited less conservative numbers of 1-1.5 hours. It might not seem like a ton of time, but that's the difference between making it to dinner with the family after work or only showing up for dessert.
The second factor for him is the reduction of course maintenance costs. Carts are big. Most run about a half ton or so. This means that every day on the course, hundreds of thousand-pound vehicles are crushing the grass and disturbing the soil. This soil disturbance day after day can lead to serious damage to the grasses, and the banishment of carts to designated paved or dirt lanes.
The Caruca will weigh between 300 and 400 pounds, about a third of the weight of the average golf cart. Between the inherent lightness of the vehicle itself and the fact that there is only one rider, Hein expects much less impact on the course.
Add to this the fact that the Caruca uses tires often found on commercial mowers (i.e. the tires golf cart groundskeepers use to minimize course degradation) rather than the typical bulkier ones, and you've got a vehicle that can potentially vastly reduce course maintenance costs. That's no small thing either. In his research, Hein found that course maintenance was the second largest expenditure for golf courses.
Thirdly is reduction of equipment costs. Buying, leasing and repairing equipment is the largest expense for the majority of golf courses. Just at face value, the Carucais cheaper than most golf carts. With a projected retail cost of $4,000, which according to Hein is a “very, very, very conservative estimate”, even getting double the number of Carucas would be cheaper than the price of a single golf cart. The same number of passengers, at a savings of a $1,000 or more at retail.
Lastly is the fun factor. People are used to driving golf carts. Novel experiences are interesting. On the Kickstarter page, Hein cites numbers showing just how open golfers are to trying new technologies or vehicles. This fun factor is a great way to get people initially interested in the product—I certainly wouldn't mind going for a test drive.
One thing I was dying to ask about was whether the vehicle had any issues with tipping over. From the looks of it, it seems like it could be a massive Achilles heel for the Caruca. Well, Hein had the same concerns, and took the device to its limits by driving on slopes far steeper than those on a golf course. He even “took it straight down a hill into a curb. It just popped right over it.”
My last question was perhaps the most important. Where does the beer go? Well, the current production model has cup holders. Because of “popular demand”, Hein is prototyping a cooler attachment so you can hit the course with enough beer to sate a small army.
Hein isn't a traditional business person. He doesn't have an MBA. He's a sales guy with a dream to lead and to develop a product that matters. From the conversation I had with him, the man has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to succeed. He's fought his way through the patent process and engineering, sourcing batteries and tires, and working with designers to create the product facade. Now he's looking for help in bringing his dream to real life.