Electric Forklift Batteries & Chargers

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Electric Forklift Batteries & Chargers

Electric Forklift Batteries & Chargers Nov. 11, 2023

Electric Forklift Batteries & Chargers

Over 60% of the Forklift Market is Electric Vehicles… and for Good Reason!

A drive to meet lower emissions standards has steered more warehouse and manufacturing operations to rely on electric forklifts over internal combustion vehicles. Electric vehicles now represent over 60% of the forklift market. Besides a reduced carbon footprint with zero emissions, electric forklifts are often preferred because they operate with a significantly reduced noise level. They are also smaller which makes them ideal for narrow aisles and tight spaces. The combination of benefits provides a safer, more environmentally friendly, and cost-effective option, particularly for indoor operations.

If you’re considering plugging into the electric forklift market, it’s wise to learn all you can before making that purchase. The Apex team is a leading provider of electric forklift vehicles and we are here to help you find the right solution for your facility.

Take a look at some of the most Frequently Asked Questions that we receive particularly regarding electric forklift batteries and chargers.

 

 

Electric Forklifts – Batteries & Chargers FAQs

1. How long does it take to charge an electric forklift battery? Charging times will depend on the capacity of the battery, amperage of the charger, and the remaining battery charge.  Typically, most electric forklift batteries take eight hours to fully charge, however, it is recommended to follow the 8-8-8 Rule:  8 hours of operation, 8 hours of charging, and 8 hours of cooling. This will maximize battery life. Also, only charge when the remaining capacity is <40% as batteries have a limited number of charge cycles, and excess charging will reduce battery life.

2. How often should I replace my forklift battery? A well-maintained lead-acid forklift battery can last over 10 years.  Replace your battery when it no longer holds a charge, requires recharge frequently following low usage, has corrosion on the battery case or has a sulfuric odor. If the battery smokes during use or charging, replace it immediately.

3. How much does a new forklift battery cost? The answer to this question depends on the type of forklift. Typically, the cost of a new battery is around a third of the total cost of the forklift. Proper maintenance, reconditioning or repair should be your first option.

4. Do I need water in my forklift battery? Yes, you do. The water level should be checked about every 10 charge cycles. This check should be done after the charge cycle is complete. If water is needed, use an approved solution or distilled water; not standard tap water which contains elements that decrease battery performance/life.  Be careful not to overfill as it can lead to spillage and dangerous sulfuric acid skin burns.

5. How much space do I need to charge my forklift? You typically will not need any space larger than your forklift to charge it each day, but it should be in a clearly marked area protected from other forklift traffic.

6. How do I know I’m choosing the right charger? Choose a battery charger recommended by the manufacturer for your specific forklift.  The charger is dependent on the battery voltage (eg. 24, 36, 48, 72, 80V) and desired output in Amp-Hrs which should be within 10% of the battery’s rating to ensure a full charge during the planned charge time.

7. How do I transport forklift batteries?  Typical forklift batteries are between 1,000 and 4,000 pounds. As always, safety first!  Ensure personnel have proper PPE and training before transporting. Battery lift points should be inspected for damage and corrosion and lift equipment used should be within the rated lift capacity. Batteries should also be properly secured to avoid any spillage during movement. Transportation of batteries should be left to a trained and experienced professional.

8. How do I charge a forklift battery? Make sure that the battery and charger outputs are compatible and that the charger cables are in appropriate working condition; not damaged or cracked. Ensure the forklift is located in the proper charging location away from aisle traffic with the key off and brake applied, or wheels chocked. While wearing the appropriate PPE, plug the charger into the charging connector and initialize the charge cycle.  If anything unusual occurs such as smoke, excessive sparks or smells, disconnect and contact someone for service.   Once the charge is complete, disconnect and check battery water levels if indicated based on the battery logbook. Add water as needed to the battery after it has charged and cooled down.

9. Who should charge forklift batteries? Inspections, maintenance, repair and charging of your forklift battery should be conducted by a trained and experienced professional. Do not let your staff attempt to change or charge your forklift batteries if they have not had proper training and instruction.

10. What safety conditions do I need for my charging area? OSHA has established clear safety recommendations for forklift battery charging areas including adequate ventilation to disperse hydrogen vapors, fire protection or fire extinguisher, an eyewash station, warning/No Smoking signs and acid neutralization materials in the immediate area.  Consult the OSHA site for more information: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/pit/forklift/electric.html.

 

Plug In with Apex Parts & Service Team

The Apex team is committed to helping you in every aspect of your forklift battery and charging needs. We provide comprehensive inspection as well as a full suite of batteries and chargers when it comes time to replace either one. We also carry a variety of brands. Contact Apex today!

Electric forklift replace battery with EV battery

johansen said:

If you really only need 14 cells, you can buy an active bms for like 25$. It will only be good for 1 amp, but they are passive, they only care about the difference in voltage. You can spend more on a more capable unit or put a few of the smaller units in parallel.

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A BMS for $25 likely wouldn't work. First of all, those boards are designed to pass the load current through the onboard transistors, which is what limits their amperage. Instead for a high current application we want a BMS that monitors and balances cells, but the load and charging currents go directly to the battery via contactor(s) that would be controlled by the BMS. So the current rating is then not a product of the BMS size, but rather the contactor size. This is the standard approach for EV batteries, as opposed to ebikes and power tools.

Second problem with many of those cheap boards is that voltages in them are not programmable. They're typically set for 4.25 or 4.20 as the over-voltage condition. It is not a good idea to charge the cells that high.

johansen said:

if the batteries are matched well, and if you have competent workers who can watch a volt meter and plug the machine in if the voltage drops to some value, then you do not need to spend 500 bucks on a 400 amp rated 48v BMS..

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Yes, and also he can burn down the shop. Decent BMS that will work for this application will run $250-300. When buying salvaged cells online there is no guarantee they came from the same EV pack and are closely matched. Even in the same pack they often degrade differently due to uneven cooling.

johansen said:

you do need a battery charger configured properly to shut off at a safe maximum voltage.

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Charging stops automatically once the voltage is equalized between the charger and the battery. However, charger only understands the total pack voltage and not the voltage at the cell level. For that reason BMS has to be capable of forcefully disconnecting the charger to prevent cell overvoltage.

A BMS for $25 likely wouldn't work. First of all, those boards are designed to pass the load current through the onboard transistors, which is what limits their amperage. Instead for a high current application we want a BMS that monitors and balances cells, but the load and charging currents go directly to the battery via contactor(s) that would be controlled by the BMS. So the current rating is then not a product of the BMS size, but rather the contactor size. This is the standard approach for EV batteries, as opposed to ebikes and power tools.Second problem with many of those cheap boards is that voltages in them are not programmable. They're typically set for 4.25 or 4.20 as the over-voltage condition. It is not a good idea to charge the cells that high.Yes, and also he can burn down the shop. Decent BMS that will work for this application will run $250-300. When buying salvaged cells online there is no guarantee they came from the same EV pack and are closely matched. Even in the same pack they often degrade differently due to uneven cooling.Charging stops automatically once the voltage is equalized between the charger and the battery. However, charger only understands the total pack voltage and not the voltage at the cell level. For that reason BMS has to be capable of forcefully disconnecting the charger to prevent cell overvoltage.

Forklift batteries

Capacity

Rated between 1,500 to 12,000 pounds of load capacity, electric counterbalanced Class I forklifts are kept stable by a heavy weight on the non-lifting end of the forklift. Typically the industrial battery that provides power to it is located there. Available in three- and four-wheeled versions, these forklifts serve different purposes, depending on the specific application needs.

Varieties

Three-wheeled electric forklifts are commonly used indoors on smooth floors in warehouses and order fulfillment distribution centers, with a load capacity of 1,500 to 4,000 pounds. Typically they have cushioned tires, unlike those forklifts that use pneumatic tires for the outdoors and rough terrain.

By comparison, a four-wheeled Class I sit-down lift truck is rated for between 3,000 to 12,000 pounds and can use different types of batteries that require a charger to match. For example, depending on the forklift’s voltage, you may choose a 24-volt, 36-volt, or 48-volt battery charger for heavy equipment.

Applications and Industries

This type of electric forklift is rated for freezer use, and can be used in the material handling, paper and packaging, shelf-stable food and beverage, manufacturing, and distribution/3PL industries. If you have an electric counterbalanced forklift that you’d like to use in cold temperatures, lithium-ion forklift batteries (rather than lead-acid) are a great option for this application.

How to choose forklift batteries for Class I applications

When you are selecting a Class I forklift battery, you’ll want to take a few things into account. Among these is the size of your lead-acid battery compartment, the voltage of your forklift’s electrical system, which may be powered by a 24-volt forklift battery, 36-volt forklift battery, or 48-volt forklift battery, etc. The type of battery that you choose determines whether you can keep your forklift operating efficiently and effectively.

In many situations, this comes down to a simple comparison of different types of electric forklift batteries. Wet-cell battery packs (commonly referred to as lead-acid batteries) must be charged with a heavy-duty truck battery charger for much longer, hold less energy, and take longer to charge. They can only be recommended for single-shift light operations.

Lithium-ion batteries, which last much longer, are able to charge more quickly with opportunity charging. They hold significantly more power than their lead-acid precursors, especially in demanding applications such as food and beverage, paper and packaging, and 24/7 distribution centers known for heavy loads and multiple-shift operations.

For more on how to choose the right battery for your forklift, see the Battery Selector page.

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