After a decade of ownership changing hands, the former owner John DeGraft-Johnson and David Catford, the son of the inventor of PowaKaddy, bought the company back in 2012 and the Powakaddy Freeway FW electric golf trolley is the first full range from this new team.
There are three models called the FW3, FW5 and FW7 that all feature the same 40 improvements made to the previous PowaKaddy Freeway trolley to enhance performance and reliability.
Standard PowaKaddy FW Features For All Models
The classic shape of the PowaKaddy frame is still there with its 2 clips on the frame that collapse the trolley. The bend in the crossbar enables PowaKaddy trollies to be one of the few designs that can accommodate a full staff bag straight on and for some that is important.
However it is the new PowaFrame chassis that has seen the most radical change. The metal tubing and offset motor of previous models has been replaced with a centrally located 200 watt motor in a plastic tray that is so strong you can stand on it. As well as being a good footstool, the PowaFrame chassis is an improvement as it looks sleeker and more modern than before
Through most of the noughties, PowaKaddy's trolleys struggled to live up to their early reputation for quality, but now the former owners are back in charge, the motor has been upgraded with better quality components. Combined with a better battery, they claim a 20% increase in performance.
Using it round a hilly course in soft conditions the motor held its own and was nice and quiet. Your bag will stay safe too as PowaKaddy have replaced the webbing straps with elastic bungee cords that are very easy to clip on. Apparently these were on some of the very first models they did 30 years ago, so that technology has now come full circle.
Another benefit of the new chassis tray is that the lead acid battery now sits flush in the base. It comes with its own built in handle and is one of the easiest lead acid batteries to take on and off in the market thanks to a new cable-less connector.
The FW uses a clever 3 prong connector that can tell if you are using a lead acid or a lithium battery. On the plus side this means you don't have to change the trolley if you want to upgrade your battery to lithium later. There is even a battery case that you can buy to put around previous PowaKaddy lead acid batteries to keep using them.
On the downside the 3 prong connnectors are specific to PowaKaddy, so using a third party after market lithium battery is unlikely to work.
The lithium batteries also have an on/off switch on the bottom so you can keep them in the trolley when you fold it to save space when travelling, but it hardly saves time if you have to take it in and out to turn it on at the other end.
There is also a release catch to pop the lithium battery up to remove it which takes some getting used to as there is nothing on the battery to then help you pick it out. To put it back, the knack is to put the back end in the tray first and then it clicks into place easily.
The handle is where the control technology kicks in and the biggest change is that the roller speed control on the right hand side of the handle has been replaced by a round dial on top of the handle.
This is obviously better for left handed golfers and PowaKaddy say that technically it also is simpler to build. However I found that when adjusting the speed whilst going over uneven ground you could easily hit the top of the dial which would stop the trolley and that got annoying after while.
The double left and right roller of the PowaKaddy Sport Lithium Brake was the best solution and even though I understand the technical reasons, I am not mad about these horizontal dials on any make of trolley.
Special mention should go to the double handle itself which is just the right size, very comfortable to grip and one of the best in the market.
There is no difference in motor performance between the three FW models, as the choice really depends on the color options and control 'dashboard' you want for your budget.
PowaKaddy FW3 Review
The FW3 comes in a choice of black or white frames and has a on/off button and that is your lot. It's a no-frills, go from A to B trolley and if you are on a budget then this is a keenly priced quality electric trolley.
PowaKaddy FW5 Review
The FW5 also comes in a choice of black or white frames and for an extra £55 it gives you the Automatic Distance Function (ADF), a digital power gauge to see your speed on a 1-9 scale, USB charger and a battery meter.
I love the ADF that sends the trolley a set distance or either 15, 30 or 45 yards before it stops, as this is ideal for sending it to the next tee as you walk to the green.
Moving with the times there is also a USB charger to keep your phone or GPS charged, although the cradle to hold it is an extra you will have to pay for. The output is rated to 5v/500mA and PowaKaddy claim it is suitable for most USB devices.
PowaKaddy FW7 Review
The standard FW7 model knocks you back a further £55 and comes in any colour as long as it is titanium silver. However it does have a choice of Carbon Fibre or Brushed Silver trims for the triangular frame leading to the front wheel and a more advanced dashboard than the FW5.
PowaKaddy seem to have gone down the well trodden route of cramming everything they could think of into the display on the handle. Beyond the useful stuff like showing speed, I liked the clock so you can see how fast, or otherwise, you are playing. The clock is also useful to time a lost ball search, as five minutes is always longer than you think.
Unfortunately the Time Elapsed option starts from when the battery is connected, so if you want to accurately time your round you will have to remove and re-insert the battery before you tee off, which is not exactly user friendly.
The ADF on the FW7 is an enhanced version of the FW5, so you can use that lovely dial to send it 5 to 50 yards in 5 yard increments. With 10 options there is the added game of judging distances and watching out for borrows in the ground that will deviate your trolley. Mine ends up in at least one bunker a year using the ADF, but it's still worth it. The choice is nice to have, but in reality less than 15 yards is unlikely to be used and for me the old choice of 3 settings is less to think about.
An enhanced battery meter using coloured bars is good, but a '% charge left' would be better as you end up playing battery-light-bingo until you find out the limits of what each bar means.
So far so good, but now for the those features that seem to be there because they can be.
On the display there is a Total Distance measurement, but it is for the lifetime of the trolley and can't be reset. Knowing you have walked 1000 yards more than the course yardage is good stuff, but this is only easily viewed the first time you use it. After that it is mental arithmetic to deduct the new total from the old and therefore its value is limited unless there is a second hand market dependent on mileage I don't know about. However it does give you your walking speed too which is good to know and almost mitigates the above.
You can also use the distance function to measure your drives, but again this is a bit of a 'nice to have' and not very useful as you have to go in a straight line across flat ground for it to be accurate. Even if there is a competition mode to disable it, the fact the FW7 has the option could still get you disqualified if it is not allowed or you forget to turn it off.
When you enable the competition mode it also disables the ADF, so you can't use that as a back door to measure distances. However, that means no ADF if you have to turn on Competition Mode to stay within the rules and then you lose one of the best features of the PowaKaddy.
Of course these minor annoyances are not fundamental to the FW7's actual purpose, which is to move your clubs around the course for you. This the FW7 does extremely well, but it does make you wonder whether you should stretch your budget to the FW7 unless you like this sort of stuff.
The only reason I can think to go for the FW7 would be to have the superb EBS Electric Braking System option for slowing the trolley when it goes downhill. Combining EBS with ADF and a lithium battery on a FW7 not only wins the TLA competition*, but is golf trolley nirvana in my book. You will need to find an RRP of £670 for this option, but trust me, it is worth it as it saves holding back a heavy trolley and bag going down slopes.
Which Powakaddy FW To Go For?
I think it is great to see PowaKaddy heading back in the right direction with a new design and motor. Yes, the control dial is not perfect, but it is no worse than anyone else's. I will continue my one man campaign against pointless display clutter with the trolley manufacturers (you know who you are), hoping that in future the investment is spent on more useful information or more built in features like GPS holders.
If PowaKaddy has cracked the reliability issue with the new motor and chassis then this will be a great product for them as it looks stylish, fits every size of bag I can think of and has a good choice of battery, colour and performance options whichever model you go for. Plus it is assembled in the UK and there is a nationwide network of service centres that not all brands can match.
My value-for-money choice would be the FW5 as it has the ADF as standard and does everything very well and so earns the 5 stars for the FW range. It seems to be lined up against the Motocaddy M1 Pro for price and sneaks it on the RRP at launch. The feel of the Powakaddy handle is better and it folds down more simply, but you do have to pay extra for the GPS holder that is standard on the more compact Motocaddy.
If money is no object then, despite some of the nonsense on the display, the nirvana of the FW7 with ADF, EBS and a lithium battery will give you the 3 best features of any electric golf trolley.
Whichever one you choose, your bag and your back will love you.
*TLA: Three Letter Abbreviation