How Lithium-Ion Batteries Improve Forklift Efficiency


Forklifts are commonplace in industrial environments such as warehouses or retail locations. Many industry-standard forklifts utilize lead-acid batteries, and while these batteries can have a lower up-front cost, lead-acid batteries come with distinct disadvantages ranging from loss of power and a low number of charge cycles to extensive maintenance requirements. Overall, lead-acid batteries just aren’t a very efficient option in the long run. Lithium-ion batteries are a reliable and longer-lasting alternative to lead-acid batteries. Read on to learn how lithium-ion batteries can improve forklift efficiency and help create a more productive workplace environment.

Battery Life

The first thing to know about lithium-ion batteries is that they have a much longer lifespan than lead-acid batteries in nearly every sense of the word. Lithium-ion batteries have a significantly higher cycle count, which is the number of times a battery can go through a full charge and discharge cycle before it starts dropping below its rated capacity and power. While a lead-acid battery may last three to four years, the increased cycle count means that a lithium-ion battery often runs up to eight to ten years.

Another advantage lithium-ion batteries have over lead-acid models is that they provide more stable power delivery when it comes to greater depths of discharge. The depth of discharge refers to how much energy your battery has used relative to a full charge. Many lead-acid batteries have reduced efficiency at a higher DoD point than lithium-ion models.

Increased Power

Perhaps the most notable way that lithium-ion batteries improve forklift efficiency is that the additional power of the battery directly increases the overall power to the forklift. A forklift operating with a lithium-ion battery has a greater power delivery, and more efficient power consumption, allowing it to lift heavier loads and move at faster speeds. It also generally requires less power to meet these demands.

Requires Less Maintenance

Lead-acid batteries, particularly non-sealed models, show their inefficiency when you consider the maintenance that goes into keeping them in working order. Many older lead-acid batteries run the risk of sulfation, off-gassing, or developing internal pockets unless kept in good condition, all of which reduce the safety and performance of your lead-acid batteries. Maintaining a flooded lead-acid battery requires adjusting water levels with distilled water, using filter systems, and equalization to charge it evenly, but even with sealed models, regular terminal cleaning and careful operation are crucial.

Lithium-ion batteries don’t have these concerns and remain in a tightly sealed casing that requires very little to no maintenance, particularly when paired with closed connections, such as with an Anderson cable, versus open terminal connections. Keeping a lithium forklift in working condition without having to fixate on battery maintenance raises efficiency in the workplace and keeps teams and operations running smoothly.

Faster Charging

Lithium-ion batteries generally charge faster than lead-acid batteries and spend less time hooked up to a charging dock. With lithium, you don’t need to worry about swapping batteries in the middle of a shift, whereas with lead-acid, you risk damaging the battery by attempting to charge it in a short period. Lithium batteries have the energy density and efficiency to keep you powered throughout an entire shift, but even on breaks you’re able to opportunity charge your lithium batteries without issue.

With faster charging speeds and the ability to hold a statistically longer charge throughout the day, lithium-ion batteries work to increase efficiency and productivity in your forklifts.

Withstanding Temperatures

Many environments that use forklifts don’t always have the best temperature control. Industrial warehouses or outdoor areas may require the use of heavy equipment but lack the means to keep temperatures even. This has consequences for lead-acid batteries due to their unfortunate habit of losing power and draining faster in hotter conditions—basically anything above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

This aversion to higher temperatures makes lead-acid batteries a worse option during summer months or in heated work areas. Lithium-ion batteries can still suffer from operating outside of safe temperature parameters, but they have a much wider range of tolerable temperatures than their alternatives. Many lithium-ion batteries still operate efficiently in temperatures ranging from -4 degrees to over 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

General Costs

Cost is one of the most significant points of discussion when comparing lithium-ion batteries with lead-acid models. When looking at the initial investments that go into a battery, you will notice that lead-acid batteries seem like the more economical choice.

While it is true that lead-acid batteries have a substantially lower starting cost, it’s wise to look at how these costs show up in the long run. Thanks to their noticeably lengthier lifespans and reduced maintenance needs, lithium-ion batteries provide greater lifetime savings, and are a more cost-efficient investment in the long-term for those looking to make the most of their equipment.

Safety Concerns

Lead-acid batteries come with many safety concerns. These batteries have the potential to cause electric shocks due to exposed terminals, the sparks from which may cause fires. If something punctures the battery, lead-acid batteries risk releasing various acids or gasses, such as hydrogen, which is highly flammable.

Lithium-ion batteries don’t pose nearly as much of a risk as lead-acid models. Lithium-ion batteries are safer to operate and less prone to puncture or injury. In the event a lithium-ion battery takes damage, there are risks of electrical shorts or fires, but on a smaller scale than battery alternatives. Some newer lithium batteries even use cutting-edge cells capable of being fully punctured without any fumes or flames, and the safest lithium batteries utilize durable steel casings, like what can be seen in BigBattery’s lithium solutions, which further help to keep your battery safe.

Environmentally Friendly

Lithium-ion batteries have another distinct advantage over lead-acid models that makes them a better option for your workplace: how easy it is to dispose of them. No matter what type of battery you use, throwing them away is never a good idea. You want to find a proper battery disposal or recycling service.

Fortunately, lithium-ion batteries contain a greater number of recyclable components, allowing more of them to create something new. Lithium-ion batteries are a much more environmentally friendly alternative to lead-acid batteries when you properly dispose of them.

Proper battery recycling is an excellent opportunity to work toward a greener and more environmentally friendly workspace. Greener measures make things more efficient and help create a positive public image for your brand. Changing the types of equipment you invest in to improve sustainable practices can even help you appeal to new customers.

Efficient forklifts keep the workplace running smoothly and help increase productivity while making things less hectic for the workers. If your business could benefit from some new 48-volt lithium-ion forklift batteries, BigBattery has everything that you need. Please browse through our catalog or contact us anytime to speak to a specialist who can help you find the right product for your workplace.