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Lithium-Ion Batteries: The Future of the Forklift World

In today’s world, lithium-ion batteries are all around us. They are on our laptops, our watches, our phones, and even our toothbrushes. Lithium-ion batteries can also be found in today’s warehouses and distribution centers. So why are companies and products switching to lithium-ion batteries? In today’s blog, we will discuss the difference between lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries and why warehouse managers are making the switch to lithium-ion batteries.

To begin we must look at the advantages and disadvantages of lead-acid batteries. Keep in mind lead-acid batteries have been in use for over 100 years and are still the most widely used battery in today’s forklift world.

Advantages of lead-acid batteries:

Very cost-efficient.

Reliable.

Easy to recycle.

Heavy enough to act as a counterbalance for the forklift.

Enough energy for two shifts.

Disadvantages of lead-acid batteries:

Long charging times.

Spare batteries for multi-shift operations.

Slower current draw at low charge levels which reduces forklift performance.

Loss of time.

Requires ventilated charging stations because they release harmful gasses while charging.

Risks of exposure to corrosive acid.

Moderately energy efficient.

Maintenance required.

Limited life cycle.

Want to learn more about lead-acid batteries? Read our blog on Tubular versus Plate Lead Acid Batteries!

Next, let us look at lithium-ions advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of lithium-ion batteries:

Enough energy for three shifts.

Shorter charging times.

No more battery exchanges.

No more battery bays are required.

No more maintenance or handling as lithium-ion cells do not require a top-off or any other maintenance procedures.

Higher power density.

Higher energy density.

High energy efficiency.

Longer lasting cycles.

Environmentally friendly.

A variety of types available, several types of lithium-ion cells are available.

Disadvantages of lithium-ion batteries:

Cost is typically more expensive than lead-acid.

Lithium-ion batteries are still considered a developing technology and are constantly changing (This may be an advantage as better solutions will be available in the future as technology changes).

Lead-acid is still the most widely used battery and forklifts are made for that design. Many forklifts must be modified to fit the new lithium-ion battery.

As you can see there are many advantages of using a lithium-ion battery. From phones to forklifts, the pros are increasingly outweighing the cons. Due to this advantage, the amount of development will only increase with time. It is important to note the disadvantages of lithium-ion, as with everything, the pros must be weighed against the cons.

In conclusion, lead-acid versus lithium-ion technology could be summarized as.

Lead-Acid Technology

Long charging times.

Spare batteries for multi-shift apps.

Higher Investment.

Risk in handling heavy batteries.

Loss of time.

Need for special battery bays.

Need for maintenance.

Medium energy efficiency.

Limited life cycle. Environmental issues with acid and lead.

Lithium-Ion Technology

Shorter charging times.

No more extra batteries.

No charging rooms.

No ventilation systems.

No more changing batteries.

No maintenance.

Enough energy for 3 shifts.

More energy efficient.

Longer life cycles.

Environmentally friendly.

Some key indicators that lithium-ion may be the right solution for your operation:

  • Multi-shift operation.
  • Changing batteries all the time.
  • More than one battery per truck for operations.
  • Willingness to opportunity charge.

Some key indicators that lithium-ion may NOT be the right solution for your operation:

  • Currently, lithium-ion batteries are not intended for freezer applications. If the battery falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the charge will be reduced.
  • High temperatures are also something to avoid as it can cause overheating to the battery and cells shortening the lifespan.

When considering integration in an existing warehouse:

  • Power grid/transformer sufficient.
  • Modifications for charging locations may be necessary.
  • Adjustments of internal processes for truck operations may be necessary.
  • Drivers will have to commit to the opportunity charging concept.
  • Safety engineers need to be advised.
  • Unknown power consumption.

Key Takeaways

It is safe to say lithium-ion batteries are the future of the forklift world. The advantages including increased productivity and fewer maintenance requirements have warehouse managers on watch. Now could be the best time to begin considering if lithium-ion is right for your operation.  Consider bringing a Fallsway expert consultant to your facility to see if lithium-ion is the correct choice.

Have any questions? Like to learn more? Contact us today!

Would you like to schedule a Fallsway representative for a facility walkthrough and consultation? Contact us here!

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