Battery Types For Forklifts

Make a positive impact on your productivity.

The type of battery your electric forklift uses can deliver wildly different results – and we’re not just talking about the effects it’ll have on your truck. After all, any forklift operator knows that an inefficient forklift makes for an inefficient warehouse – and no one wants that. Yet all forklifts rely on some form of power and we’ve come to rely on forklifts to drive our productivity. So, to keep your staff happy and your business functioning as it should, Locators have compiled a handy guide below on battery types for forklifts. Consider the following pros and cons when it comes to utilising these battery types for commercial and industrial use.

Safe Power

Locators’ lead-acid battery topping service.

Instead of training your staff and keeping de-ionised water in your warehouse, Locators offers a service known as Safe Power. Safe Power removes hazardous health and safety risks from your warehouse and means that you don’t have to store de-ionised water on site. This service typically costs about £200 per battery, per year – depending on the lead-acid battery’s size. Also, depending on how hard you use your truck, the Safe Power team will come to you every 2-4 weeks and top up your lead-acid battery. The team will bring their own de-ionised water, clean and check your battery to ensure everything’s working as it should. If your battery is damaged – then they’ll give you an estimate and repair it while they’re on site.

PROS AND CONS OF DIFFERENT BATTERY TYPES FOR FORKLIFTS

Which battery works best for your forklift?

LEAD-ACID BATTERIES

Advantages

– If kept properly maintained, lead-acid batteries are thoroughly reliable
– Lead-acid batteries can be used in both light or heavy duty applications
– Compared to lithium-ion batteries, they are comparatively cheaper

Disadvantages

– Requires frequent maintenance, without which the battery could rapidly deteriorate
– During charging, batteries emit gas and must be left to complete their charge
– Ideally should be cycled down to 20% charge before being re-charged

Lithium-ion BATTERIES

Advantages

– Requires no maintenance and has a battery life of 7-10 years
– The polar opposite of lead-acid, Li-ion is designed to be opportunity charged
– Charging times are much faster

Disadvantages

– Much higher cost than lead acid batteries
– You cannot operate the machine for extended periods of time without charging
– Unlike a lead-acid battery, if you over discharge a lithium-ion battery it can be unrecoverable

Battery Types For Forklifts – LEAD-ACID BATTERIES

The old-school “wet cell battery”

These are the most commonly used battery types for forklifts and have retained that title for over 160 years! Invented in 1859, they resemble a car battery and are the oldest form of rechargeable battery in existence. They’re cheap, convenient and perfect for a variety of applications such as cars, bikes and – you guessed it – forklifts. Lead-acid batteries supply power to everything from electronics to thrust and a whole lot more. There is good reason for its sustained popularity too. These types of battery are not only dependable but inexpensive when viewed on a cost-per-watt basis. Lead-acid batteries are widely used when a surge current is critical – such as required by starter motors. The batteries work when oxygen in the active material – lead dioxide – reacts with hydrogen ions to form water. The lead then reacts with sulphuric acid to form lead sulphate. The current flow is formed as a result of these ions moving through the electrolyte.

Maintenance

Unlike lithium-ion batteries, lead-acid batteries require regular maintenance – preferably just before your shift. Assuming you work a standard day shift, you should charge your truck overnight and check or top up your battery levels in the morning. It’s imperative that you do this only after the battery’s been fully charged and had time to cool down. If you were to top it up at night – when the batteries are discharged – the water levels would be too high. So, if you were to then put it on charge, by the morning the acid will have bubbled over top of the cells and into the battery tank – leading to further complications and corrosion.

On another note, if you prematurely take the truck off charge you’d engage in something known as, “opportunity charging”. Quite a lot of operators think that when they go for lunch, they can simply charge the battery. They’ll then return to find the battery discharge indicator has leapt up and resume their work. These operators will do this under the assumption that they’ve got more battery life to get them through the rest of their shift . . . but this is not the case. All they’ve done is pushed heat into the battery, which is akin to leaving a Duracell battery on a radiator. Hot batteries can stay in this state for 2-3 days. Given that larger forklift batteries can cost £5,000, it could be quite a shock to your bank balance should you have to replace one prematurely.

So, in short: discharge your lead-acid battery to 80%, top the battery up after it’s been fully charged, and never opportunity charge a battery. Is your team opportunity charging trucks to get it through their shifts? Then you either don’t have enough batteries or you’ve got the wrong truck. Feel free to contact our team for advice on battery types for forklifts.

Battery Types For Forklifts – LITHIUM-ION BATTERIES

Perfect for opportunity charging.

The industry has become accustomed to offering lithium-ion batteries, particularly with smaller machines. These batteries are sealed and maintenance free making them attractive to certain industries. Li-ion provides more power and more energy density than lead-acid batteries. It also has a much longer lifespan and can be opportunity charged. This makes them a flexible, efficient energy storage solution for demanding operations.

Maintenance

Lithium-ion batteries and renowned for being a low-maintenance piece of kit. Best of all, there’s no manual handling involved and users needn’t top them up either as they’re a sealed battery unit. Yet, unlike a lead-acid battery, if you over-discharge one of these and run it down flat it’s quite likely that it’ll be unrecoverable. In such an event, a replacement counterbalance battery could cost roughly £15-20,000. Whereas a lead-acid battery would cost less than a quarter of that. If managed correctly, it is the perfect solution for high intensity operations. Especially where the truck isn’t in continuous movement. However, if the battery cannot be regularly topped up with charge, lithium-ion might not be the answer for you.

To find out how we can help your business, email sales@locators.co.uk today, or call 01202 854 200 to arrange a discussion with a member of our expert team. Take a look at our Google review.

What our clients say

We are very pleased with the change from an engine to an electric fleet. The trucks have been well received by our operators as they are comfortable and quiet to drive and give excellent protection from the elements. We even have the option and flexibility to use spare batteries and a simple battery change system if we ever want to work back to back shifts in the future. Locators also design, supply and install all types of racking and storage systems. They reconfigured the CooperVision warehouse for narrow aisle operation which increases the storage density and pallet locations. Locators supplied Aisle-Master articulated forklifts to work in this area.

Coopervision, Hamble

We have worked with Locators for nearly 20 years. We are confident they can always make the best use of the space we have available and provide us with forklifts that are well suited for the long loads and other stock we have to move.

Colin Macgregor
Director, Y Goldberg

Every time we look at an application, Locators approach it like a blank canvas and always recommend the best equipment for our business. Locators have proved themselves as a very reliable and proactive service provider by keeping our trucks working and our fleet costs as low as possible.

Adam Conrad
Group Transport Manager for Covers

Being able to work with one supplier for storage and materials handling has been a benefit to us. Locators managed the complete installation and ensured the correct materials handling equipment was specified for their design. They also service and maintain all of the equipment they have supplied and offer a rack inspection service to make sure our warehouse remains a safe working environment. We are very happy with our new facility and we believe we have made the best use of the available space.

Marc Congdon
Engineering Manager, Costa

We purchased our first Toyota forklift from Locators 14 years ago for our farm. This truck has been very reliable and is still in service so we had no hesitation in deciding to purchase another Toyota machine. Locators recommended an electric forklift for our machinery depot as it is very quiet, has low running costs and does not create any pollution, making it ideal for working both inside and outside. Our operators are very pleased with our new Toyota truck and our business is very happy to be operating a forklift that has such a low impact on the environment.

Ed Smales
Director, NFFM

Locators installed the new racking system within a tight timeframe while our business was fully operational. They have provided us with a facility that has a similar storage capacity and reduced the size of our forklift fleet allowing us to lease one building instead of two. We are very happy with the outcome.

Paul Bickell
Nippon Express

Locators gave us the benefit of working with just one supplier for all of the storage and materials handling requirements of this project. By mixing 3 and 4 wheel trucks from the same model range, we have gained extra pallet locations and have the option to battery change between them and work multi-shift in the future. I was initially sceptical that electric trucks could replace LPG, but I am very pleased with the successful outcome of this project.

Mark Davis
Logistics Supervisor for Hall & Woodhouse brewery

It is a great benefit to us that we have a single source supplier who understands the needs of our business. This saves us time, improves efficiency and ultimately reduces cost.

Richard Horrocks
Smurfitt Kappa