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Battery Types For Forklifts

Make a positive impact on your productivity.

Electric Forklifts typically utilise

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 rely on forklifts to power our productivity. So, to keep your staff happy and your business functioning as it should, we’ve compiled a handy guide below on battery types for forklifts. Consider the following pros and cons when utilising these battery types for commercial and industrial use.

Safe Power

Locators’ lead-acid battery topping service.

Instead of training your staff to top batteries and keeping de-ionised water in your warehouse, we offer a service called Safe Power. Safe Power removes hazardous health and safety risks from your warehouse and means you don’t have to store de-ionised water on site. This service typically costs about £235 per battery per year — depending on the lead-acid battery’s size. Depending on how hard you use your trucks, the Safe Power team will come to you every 2-4 weeks and top up your lead-acid battery. We will bring de-ionised water, clean and check your battery to ensure everything is working as it should. We will repair your battery under warranty or provide a repair estimate if your battery is damaged.

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
– Typically, they have a 5-year warranty but can last 10 years or more
– Lead-acid batteries can be used in both light or heavy-duty applications
– Compared to lithium-ion batteries, they are cheaper to buy or rent

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

Fast charge Lead Acid

Advantages

– All the same as listed for Lead Acid above
– The the ability to charge faster than lead acid and also opportunity charge

Disadvantages

– Like standard lead acid they require topping and maintenance
– They require a full 14-hour charge once each week, this is when they equalise and emit gas

Lithium-ion BATTERIES

Advantages

– Requires no maintenance and has a battery warranty of 7 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 and fast charger batteries
– You cannot operate the machine for very extended periods of time without charging
– If you heavily 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 various applications such as cars, bikes and — you guessed it — forklifts. Lead-acid batteries supply power to everything from electronics to thrust and much more. There is good reason for its sustained popularity too. These types of batteries 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 starter motors require. 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 due to 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. You must do this only after the battery’s been fully charged and has 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 put it on to charge, the acid would have bubbled over top of the cells. It would have gone into the battery tank by the morning, ultimately leading to further complications and corrosion.

On another note, if you prematurely take the truck off charge, you’d engage in “opportunity-charging”.

Many operators think they can charge the battery when they go for lunch. They’ll then return to find the battery discharge indicator has leapt up and resume their work. These operators will do this assuming 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 push heat into the battery, 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.

Battery Types For Forklifts – FAST-CHARGE LEAD-ACID BATTERIES

These use the same basic technology as lead-acid but are built differently. They are coupled with high-efficiency chargers to allow them to be opportunity charged. The charger is programmed to complete a full equalising charge once each week when the equipment is not in use.

Maintenance

Fast-charge lead-acid batteries require less topping than standard lead-acid batteries. However, the maintenance rules are essentially the same. You can opportunity charge these batteries throughout the day if needed. Alternatively, you can charge them overnight during quieter periods. They have a slightly higher capacity than the same A/H lead-acid batteries, so unlike lithium-ion, you can use the trucks for extended periods. Fast charge is a good compromise between standard lead-acid and lithium-ion as it is the more cost-effective option.

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 specific industries. Lithium-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 pretty likely that it’ll be unrecoverable. In such an event, a replacement counterbalance battery could cost roughly £15-20,000. In contrast, 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, lithium-ion might not be the answer for you if the battery cannot be regularly topped up and charged.

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.