How a Lithium-Ion Battery Makes Your Forklift Safer & More Efficient
If you own or operate a forklift, you know they require vast amounts of energy. Different forklifts use different power sources. Some run on batteries and others on gasoline, diesel, or propane. If you choose a battery-powered forklift, you have the choice to run it on lead-acid batteries or industrial lithium-ion battery packs. While lead-acid batteries are rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries are a significantly better option—not only for power and convenience but also for your general safety, but also for those working around you. Here’s how a lithium-ion battery makes your forklift more efficient and safe.
Watering Lead-Acid Batteries
To stay operational, lead-acid batteries require occasional topping off with distilled water. This is done to aid the chemical process between the sulfuric acid and lead plates in the battery that create the electric charge. Distilled water keeps the contents of the battery from degrading, which can cause the battery to fail. Watering is a tricky process. You can use only distilled water because any minerals or impurities in tap water will ruin the battery. There’s also the chance of adding too much or too little water, again risking potentially destroying the battery. Plus, there is the major inconvenience of waiting for a lead-acid battery to be fully charged and to cool down before adding water—again otherwise risking damage and a potential poisonous spill of sulfuric acid. The good news is that an easier alternative is available.
You guessed it; the alternative is lithium-ion batteries. They require zero maintenance on your part.
Lead-Acid Recharging Issues
You want batteries that recharge swiftly and with little hassle to mitigate operational downtime. Lead-acid batteries take their time charging up. Sometimes they can take up to eight hours or more to recharge. Undercharging them can slightly damage the battery and make their cycle life shorter over time. Lithium-ion batteries take far less time to fully re-charge and they often charge to about 80 percent capacity within a shorter time period.
As for safety issues, this is another dividing line between lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries. Overcharging can cause lead-acid batteries to overheat and explode. Thus, they need to be monitored to ensure overcharging doesn’t cause the solution within the battery to overheat, form hydrogen and oxygen gases, and build pressure inside the battery to a dangerous level with no way to safely vent it. Most batteries are designed to prevent this, but there’s a greater chance a charging lead-acid battery will explode if left unmonitored. The resulting damage and potential injuries can be horrific.
Lithium-ion batteries are statistically much less likely to explode than traditional batteries. Often, they come equipped with or are connected to battery management systems (BMS) that provide alerts in case of overcharging or rising temperatures. Many lithium-ion batteries today utilize LiFePO4 chemistry, which is the safest battery chemistry on the market.
No Need To Remove LFP Batteries Between Use
Lead-acid batteries need to be removed from your forklift between charges, which can be often due to their lower usable capacity. They don’t last as many hours as they take to charge, and even when they’re done charging, they still need to cool down before reinstallation, which can take up tremendous amounts of valuable time. As for safety, the process is fraught with opportunities for injury and property damage.
Many lead-acid forklift batteries can top the scale at a quarter ton to two tons in weight. This requires bringing in machinery that can switch out and tote the battery to a new area, then reversing the process once recharging is over. There is a lot of heavy moving to account for every time you switch, and you’re putting workers at risk every time. The people managing the recharging process are running a risk each time too. The beauty of lithium-ion batteries is that they weigh less than lead-acid batteries. But here’s the best part: you don’t need to disconnect a lithium-ion battery to recharge it. It remains intact on your forklift while you hook up the charger. While you may need to put ballast in your forklift to balance with extra heavy loads, you’ll be much swifter and more fuel-efficient, not to mention out of harm’s way.
Less Pollution and Poison
Let’s make a quick side trip to see how forklifts that run on lithium-ion batteries are better and safer than ones using fuel, whether it’s gas, diesel, or propane. Naturally, when you burn fossil fuels, you release carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and other poisons into the air. Using a fuel-powered forklift requires the area to be open or at least well-ventilated, but there’s still the risk of the operator breathing in whatever the engine puts out. Lithium-ion batteries don’t release fumes and don’t contain sulfuric acid, which can do horrific damage if it gets out.
Here’s one more tip on why a lithium-ion battery is the best choice for your forklift. It makes the earth a bit cleaner. Lithium-ion batteries have fewer toxins than lead-acid batteries or fuel-burning forklifts and contain mostly non-hazardous waste. They also use elements like cobalt, iron, nickel, and copper that can be recycled or which cause fewer issues in landfills.
In the end, while lithium-ion batteries certainly come with plenty of financial and ecological benefits, their safety features and efficiency should be considered in your decision to purchase one over a more traditional, dangerous, and less effective