FAQs About Forklift Batteries

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FAQs About Forklift Batteries

FAQs About Forklift Batteries Oct. 14, 2023

FAQs About Forklift Batteries

When selecting a forklift battery, choosing the best option for your business needs is essential. There are two common types of forklift batteries, each with advantages and disadvantages. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about electric forklift batteries so you can make an informed decision when purchasing one. 

What are the most common types of forklift batteries?

There are two common types of forklift batteries: lead-acid and lithium-ion.  

Which forklift battery type is the most affordable?

Lead-acid batteries are less expensive upfront but may cost more long-term.  

What are the advantages of lead-acid forklift batteries?

Lead-acid batteries are the most used forklift batteries due to their affordability and relatively low maintenance costs, making them the ideal choice for those on a budget.  

What are the disadvantages of lead-acid forklift batteries?

 

Lead-acid batteries have some drawbacks—requiring frequent recharging and maintenance.  

How long does it take to charge a lead acid forklift battery fully?

 

It takes about eight hours to charge a lead acid battery fully.  

What is the lifespan of a lead-acid forklift battery?

A properly maintained lead-acid battery has a maximum lifespan of between 1,000 and 1,500 cycles.  

What are the advantages of lithium-ion forklift batteries? 

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are quickly becoming the preferred option for many businesses due to their superior performance and efficiency compared to lead-acid batteries. Li-ion batteries offer several advantages over lead-acid batteries, such as longer run times, lighter weight, and no need for frequent recharging or maintenance due to their low self-discharge rate.  

Are there any disadvantages of lithium-ion forklift batteries?

The downside is that Li-ion batteries are more expensive than lead-acid batteries.  

How long does it take to charge a lithium-ion battery fully?

A lithium-ion battery can fully charge in as little as two hours.  

What is the lifespan of a lithium-ion battery?

Lithium-ion batteries can last anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 cycles.  

Do you have to fully charge a lithium-ion battery before using it?

One of the significant advantages of lithium-ion batteries is called opportunity charging, which is the ability to plug in and charge any time of the day, even if only for a few minutes. With opportunity charging, forklifts are plugged into chargers anytime the operators are on break, lunch, or during a shift change. When the operators return to work, the forklifts are ready until the next opportunity to charge.   

What is the best battery choice for multi-shift operations?

Fast-charging lithium-ion batteries are the ideal choice for multi-shift operations.  

What is the best forklift battery choice overall?

Lead-acid batteries are inexpensive but require frequent recharging and maintenance, while lithium-ion batteries offer longer run times and less maintenance but come with higher price tags attached. There is no one size fits all solution when choosing a battery option for your forklift; each business has unique needs and budgets to consider when making this crucial decision. Consider all factors carefully to ensure you get the most out of your purchase. 

Can we get advice before we make our choice?

Absolutely. Our material-handling experts are available for free consultations. Contact us today! 

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Best Kept Secret in Renewable Energy - Forklift Battery

In my years of experience living off the grid (since the late '90s), I have found batteries to be the most expensive and troublesome component of a renewable energy system over the long run.  With that in mind, I knew there must be a better solution than the standard "go-to" batteries such as Trojan L-16's and T-105's or even the high-end Surrette's or super high-end Solar One batteries.  While the high-end batteries mentioned often work very well, they are quite expensive.  So for years, I have kept my eyes open for a better solution.

When our small bank of Trojan L-16's bit the dust, we had been hearing rumblings of another option from friends.  It was relatively inexpensive, often available locally, and was incredibly heavy-duty and long lasting.  We decided to try it out, and so far our experience has confirmed what many others have been experiencing.

A Cheaper Quality Option

You may be thinking of new technologies involving sealed batteries of different materials. However, from what I have seen, the prices are still too high for these units.  What I would call your attention to is still the standard lead-acid deep cycle battery, but one of a different variety.  They are sometimes right under our nose and for some reason we don't even think of them as an option.  What could this possibly be?

The lowly forklift or industrial battery used in electric forklifts or pallet-jacks.  It is simply an incredibly heavy-duty, incredibly large, and surprisingly cost effective lead-acid deep cycle battery.  Forklift batteries come in a variety of voltages (12, 24, 36, or 48) and sizes (from 1,000 pounds to several thousand pounds).  They are available at local industrial battery suppliers or in at least one situation, from the manufacturer.

The lead plates on a forklift battery are far thicker and should last much longer than any L-16 battery made for renewable energy.  The battery is composed of 2 volt cells, all packed in a heavy-duty metal case and tied together with metal bars in the proper configuration to add up to the labeled voltage.  When used with a forklift every day, these batteries typically last no more than seven or eight years, but expected life-span is up to 15 or 20+ years when used with a renewable energy system, properly maintained, and not deeply discharged.

Lifetime Battery Cost Comparison Chart

Cost

This is the "zinger" for me.  Let's take an example.  Say you would normally need 8 Trojan L-16 batteries (this is not to indicate that 8 would be sufficient for you, this is simply an illustration).  At $300-400 per battery, we will take an average of $350 x 8 batteries = $2,800.  This would be around 740 amp-hours of batteries at 24 volts.  Now let's take a forklift battery that we have experience with--GB Industrial Batteries.  There are a variety of sizes but let's take the 24 volt battery that is 804 amp-hours and weighs almost 1,100 pounds.  A little larger than those 8 L-16's.  How much does it cost? Expect to pay around $2,500.  Now, bear in mind that this battery should last at least twice as long as those L-16's if properly cared for.  That is what I call a good deal!

Where to Buy?

Forklift batteries are readily available from industrial battery dealers in most large cities.  And while it is certainly worth checking those local sources, it is very possible that your best deal may come from an out-of-town source.

In addition, anytime you buy a battery for off grid purposes from a forklift dealer, you have to expect that the dealer won't be much help.  They may be very well versed in forklift batteries for use in forklifts, but we have found them to not only be clueless about off grid usage, but to actually give information that is just plain inaccurate.  You see, what may be good advice for a forklift user could be positively bad advice for an off grid user.  We use our batteries VERY differently.

Length of Battery Life?

While a forklift user will most likely wear their battery out in 7 or 8 years by wearing the plates out, an off grid user can get over 15 years and the battery will likely succomb from sulfation rather than the plates wearing out.  What this means is that the way you use and maintain an off grid battery must necessarily be different than the way you operate a battery on a forklift.

With that said, you might consider looking at the few off grid dealers who carry forklift batteries and give them a call.  You'll not only get the longevity and economy of a forklift battery, but you'll also get the support of an off grid dealer.  This is very important unless you are an experienced off grid user or have support from another source like Off Grid Boot Camp.  A couple dealers that carry the very good and affordable GB Industrial Batteries are Quality To Last (it's not on their website, so call them for info) and Stoves & More.

The other option is to purchase straight from a manufacturer or local industrial battery dealer, with the most economical one being GB Industrial Batteries.  Just remember, they don't have much experience with off grid power systems, so I would recommend seeking advice from someone very familiar with off grid battery use.

How Do You Move A 1,000+ Pound Battery?

The only drawback I am aware of when purchasing a forklift battery for use off grid, is the logistics of picking up and installing such a large heavy battery.  This can certainly be done if you have a tractor with a front loader to unload it.

But here is a tidbit that should be very helpful.  It is possible to order the 12 volt GB Industrial Batteries with removable cells.  That means that a 600 pound battery could be temporarily broken down into 100 pound pieces.  It costs extra to do this, but could be well worth it if you have a difficult location to install the battery in.  And if you system voltage is 24 or 48 volts (for most people it should be), you can wire 2 of the 12 volt batteries in series to make 24 volts or you can get up to 48 volts with 4 batteries wired in series.

Oh, and by the way, learn from our mistakes...don't put your battery room in the middle of your house!  Put it in a location that is easily accessed from outside.

Lower Cost Alternative

Still too expensive?  Try a lightly used forklift battery.  I usually do NOT recommend used batteries as they could have been damaged by abuse, but if I had to buy a used battery, these forklift batteries are so heavy-duty that they can withstand some abuse.  Don't expect to get 20 years of service from a used battery, but I have found a good used forklift battery to run around $500 and even if it only lasts 5 or 10 years, it is still a good deal.

If you go that route, make certain you know your "stuff" to check out.  Check all cells with a volt meter and hydrometer (to check specific gravity).  You are looking for any dead cells (much lower voltage or specific gravity than the rest of the cells.  You are also looking to see that the specific gravity looks good when fully charged as this is an indicator of the battery's health.  I have heard of guys buying a 36 volt battery so they can eliminate all dead cells and combine all good ones to hopefully add up to 24 volts.

For More Details

If you are looking for more details on batteries and how to set up a cost effective off grid power system, we have a lot of really helpful training for you.  But I think the best place to start is a free video series that everyone interested in off grid stuff should watch.  The first video in this series is all about batteries!  To get free access to this thorough yet simple training series, visit this page.

How to choose the right Forklift Battery

Maxim Khabur

Maxim Khabur

How to choose the right Forklift Battery

OneCharge

16600 Aston
Irvine, CA 92606
http://onecharge.biz/

Choosing industrial batteries can be complicated—there are just so many options that it can be difficult to decide which factors are most important: Ah capacity, chemistry, charging speed, cycle life, brand, price, etc.

If you already know what to expect of your battery, use the forklift battery selector to see available options.

If you’d like to learn which requirements of your material handling operations are crucial for choosing the right forklift battery, read on.

1. Start with the make and model of your forklifts and lift truck specs

Your choice of power source for the equipment is defined primarily by the forklift’s technical specifications. As the users of diesel- or propane-powered Class 4 and 5 sit-down forklifts continue to convert to Class 1 electric, more than half of lift trucks today are battery-powered. Durable, high-capacity Li-ion batteries have become available for even the most demanding applications handling heavy and bulky loads like steel, lumber, paper, and beverages.

The following are the main specs you need to look at.

1.1 Battery voltage (V) and capacity (Ah)

There are several standard voltage options (12V, 24V, 36V, 48V, 72V, 80V) and different capacity options (from 100Ah to 1000Ah and higher) available for various lift truck models.

For example, a 24V 210Ah battery is typically used in 4,000-pound pallet jacks, and 80V 1050Ah would fit a counterbalanced sit-down forklift to handle loads up to 20K pounds.

1.2 Battery compartment size

The dimensions of a forklift’s battery compartment are often unique, so it is crucial to find a perfect and precise fit. It is also important to consider the cable connector type and its location on the battery and a truck.

Some OEM manufacturers (e.g. Combilift, AisleMaster) have two battery compartments of different sizes. The CUSTOM Series lithium battery is a good example of how a battery is engineered to meet certain equipment’s unique specs.

1.3 Battery weight and counterweight

Different forklift models have different recommended battery weight requirements that you should consider while making your choice. An additional counterweight is added to a battery intended for use in applications with heavy loads.

1.4 Li-ion vs. lead-acid forklift batteries in different types of electric forklifts (Classes I, II, and III)

Lithium batteries are best suited for Class I, II, and III forklifts and other off-road electric vehicles, like sweepers and scrubbers, tugs, golf carts, etc. The reasons? Triple the lifespan of lead-acid technology, excellent safety, minimal maintenance, stable operation at low or high temperatures, and high energy capacity in kWh.

LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) and NMC (Lithium-Manganese-Cobalt-Oxide) batteries are both used in electric forklifts. The recent tests of lithium battery types at Sandia Laboratories show that LFP batteries will actually last longer and are more reliable than NMC.

NMC and NCA (Lithium-Cobalt-Nickel-Oxide) types of lithium batteries are more commonly used in passenger EVs and electronics due to their lower overall weight and higher energy density per kilogram. NMC industrial batteries are used by some OEM manufacturers (Kalmar, for example) in construction equipment like cranes and excavators.

Until recently, lead-acid batteries have been widely used in all types of electric forklift trucks. TPPL is the newer version of such batteries. It has higher efficiency and higher charging speed but only compared to traditional flooded lead-acid technology or sealed lead-acid batteries, like absorbent glass mat (AGM).

In most cases, lithium-ion batteries are a much more economical and efficient choice for industrial applications than any lead-acid battery, including AGM or TPPL batteries.

1.5 Forklift-battery communication

A Controller Area Network (CAN bus) allows microcontrollers and devices to communicate with each other’s applications without a host computer. Not all battery brands are fully integrated with all forklift models through the CAN bus. Then there is the option of using an external Battery Discharge Indicator (BDI), which provides the operator with visual and audio signals of the battery’s state of charge and readiness to work.

At OneCharge, we make both options and are ready to develop CAN options with any lift truck make and model.

2. Factor in the details of your material handling equipment application and your company policies

The battery’s performance must fit the actual use of the forklift or lift truck. Sometimes the same trucks are used in different ways (handling different loads, for example) in the same facility. In this case, you may need different batteries for them. Your corporate policies and standards may also be in play.

2.1 Load weight, lift height, and travel distance

The heavier the load, the higher the lift, and the longer the route, the more battery capacity you will require to last the whole day. Take into consideration the average and maximum weight of the load, travel distance, height of the lift, and ramps. The most demanding applications, such as paper and packaging or food and beverage, where load weight can reach 15–20 thousand pounds, will require an 80V POWER Series lithium battery with up to 1050Ah capacity.

2.2 Forklift attachments

As with the load weight, the size of the pallet, or the shape of the load that needs to be moved, using heavy forklift attachments will require more “gas in the tank”—higher battery capacity. A hydraulic paper clamp is a good example of an attachment for which you need to plan some extra power.

2.3 Freezer or cooler

Will a forklift operate in a cooler or freezer? For low-temperature operations, you’ll probably need to choose a forklift battery equipped with additional insulation and heating elements, like the FROST Series lithium battery.

2.4 Charging schedule and speed: LFP and NMC Li-ion vs lead-acid battery

Single battery operation eliminates the need to replace a dead battery with a fresh one during the workday. In most cases, this is only possible with the opportunity charging of a Li-ion battery during breaks, when it is convenient for the operator and does not disrupt the production process. Several 15-minute breaks during the day are enough to keep the lithium battery at over 40% charge. This is a recommended charging mode that provides top performance for a forklift and helps to extend the useful life of the battery.

Read the full text of How to Choose the Right Lithium Forklift Battery.

2.5 Data for fleet management needs

Fleet management data is primarily used to track maintenance, improve safety compliance, and maximize equipment utilization. Battery management system (BMS) data can significantly enrich or replace data from other sources with detailed info on power consumption, the timing of charging and idle events, battery technical parameters, etc.

Easy data access and the user interface are becoming the most important factors when choosing a battery.

2.6 Corporate safety and sustainable development standards

Li-ion batteries are the safest option for industrial forklifts. They don’t have any of the issues of lead-acid technology, such as corrosion and sulfating, and do not emit any pollutants. They eliminate the risk of accidents associated with the daily replacement of heavy batteries. This benefit is crucial in industries such as food and beverage, medical supplies, electronics, etc. With Li-ion electric forklift batteries, you do not need a specially ventilated room for charging.

Read the full text of How to Choose the Right Lithium Forklift Battery.

3. Evaluate the battery price and future maintenance costs

3.1 Maintenance

A Li-ion battery does not require daily maintenance. Lead-acid batteries need to be watered, cleaned after occasional acid spills, and equalized (applying special charging mode to equalize cells charge) regularly. Labor and external service costs tend to increase as the lead-acid power units age, resulting in decreasing uptime and contributing to constantly increasing operational costs.

Read the full text of How to Choose the Right Lithium Forklift Battery.

3.2 Battery acquisition price vs total cost of ownership

The purchase price of a lead-acid power unit plus charger is lower than a lithium package. However, when switching to lithium you need to take into account the increase in uptime provided by single battery operation and the flexible opportunity charging schedule, the 3-fold increase in the battery’s useful life, and lower maintenance costs.

Calculations clearly demonstrate that a lithium-ion battery saves up to 40% in 2–4 years on the total cost of ownership compared to a lead-acid battery.

Among lithium batteries, the LFP lithium battery type is a more economical and efficient choice than NMC lithium batteries.

In most cases, it makes economic sense to switch to Li-ion, even if you operate a small fleet or a single forklift.

3.3 How often do you buy new batteries for your forklifts?

Lithium batteries have a longer lifespan than any lead-acid power pack. Lead-acid batteries lifespan is 1000–1500 cycles or less. Lithium-ion lasts at least 3,000 plus cycles depending on the application.

TPPL lead-acid batteries have a longer lifespan than conventional liquid-filled or sealed AGM batteries, but they can’t even come close to a lithium-ion technology in this aspect.

Within lithium, LFP batteries demonstrate a longer cycle life than NMC.

3.4 Battery chargers

Compact Li-ion forklift battery chargers can be conveniently located around the facility for opportunity charging during breaks and lunches.

Lead-acid batteries require massive charging stations and need to be charged in a ventilated charging room to avoid risks of contamination associated with acid spills and fumes during charging. Eliminating a dedicated battery room and bringing back this space to profitable use usually make a big difference for the bottom line.

Read the full text of How to Choose the Right Lithium Forklift Battery.

4. How to choose a battery with a focus on brand and vendor

4.1 Consultative selling

Selecting and procuring the right battery can take a lot of effort and time. Your supplier will need to provide professional information on what battery set-up is optimal, and what the trade-offs and must-haves are for your specific equipment and operation.

4.2 Lead time and accuracy of shipments

A plug-n-play solution is more than just easy installation and set-up. It includes due diligence in battery configuration for a specific task and application, connection protocols like CAN bus integration, safety features, etc.

So, on the one hand, you’d want to have the batteries delivered just in time when your new or existing forklifts are ready to start. On the other hand, if you choose just what is available and rush the order, you may discover that a lift truck or your material handling operations are incompatible with the batteries.

4.3 Support and service in your location and past customer experience

The availability of forklift battery support and service in your area affects how quickly you resolve your equipment issues.

Is your vendor ready to do everything possible in the first 24 hours to make sure your equipment works, no matter what? Ask former customers and OEM dealers for their recommendations and past experience with the battery brand you plan to purchase.

4.4 Product quality

Product quality is mainly defined by how closely a battery can meet the requirements of operations. The right capacity, cables, charging speed set-up, protection from weather and from incorrect treatment by inexperienced forklift operators, etc.— all these determine the quality of battery performance in the field, not the numbers and images from a spec sheet.

About the Author:

Maxim Khabur is the Marketing Director of OneCharge, Inc., based in Irvine, CA.

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