How to Choose the Right Forklift Battery

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How to Choose the Right Forklift Battery

How to Choose the Right Forklift Battery Oct. 14, 2023

How to Choose the Right Forklift Battery

Forklift Battery Types

Intro

After determining which size battery is compatible with your forklift, the next important consideration is using: lithium-ion vs lead acid forklift batteries.

Electric forklifts are generally powered by either of these two main types of batteries:

  • Lead acid

  • Lithium-ion

While there are other power options for forklifts, such as propane or diesel, or gas power, 2/3rds that are put into service each year are electric.

The technology behind each of these industrial batteries differs greatly, and therefore, has a different impact on forklift efficiency.

Lead acid batteries are the old-school standard for powering forklifts. They are bulky, liquid-filled units with a removable top that generates electricity via a chemical reaction of lead plates and sulfuric acid. Its technology goes back to 1859 and involves regularly refilling the units with water (which is also necessary for the electricity-generating chemical processes happening within). Lithium-ion batteries are a newer technology, having been first used in a commercial product in the early 1990s, a Sony camcorder. Lithium-ion batteries have many different chemistries. One of the most popular chemistries for the material handling industry is lithium iron phosphate (LFP). It is more compact and energy dense than lead acid. The cells are sealed shut and require no water maintenance.

Length of a Forklift Battery’s Service Life

Like any business expense, electric forklift batteries are a cost that needs to be dealt with regularly.

Which type of battery a company uses in its forklifts determines how often workers will have to replace the battery. Lead acid and lithium-ion batteries have different lifespans:

  • Lead acid: 1000 - 1500 cycles

  • Lithium-ion: 3500 cycles

These are averages and may vary based on how well the batteries are maintained.

A lithium-ion forklift battery needs to be replaced less frequently, which is a major driver for business owners to prefer them to conventional lead acid batteries – which need to be replaced out for new ones more often.

Maintaining Forklift Battery Capacity

Both lithium-ion batteries and their lead acid counterparts should be cared for properly if they are to perform up to their full potential. Their service life will diminish if proper forklift battery maintenance is not carried out as it should be.

In order to maximize service life and overall battery capacity, certain measures should be taken for users of both battery types. However, lead acid batteries require more care and attention compared to lithium-ion.

Lead acid forklift batteries require:

  • Equalizing (Cell Balancing): Traditional technology like this leads to a frequent state where the acid and water inside become stratified (separated horizontally with the acid more concentrated closer to the bottom). This state forms sulfate crystals towards the bottom of the cells and weakens their ability to hold a charge. Equalizing will break up the sulfate crystals but if the battery has been neglected for too long the crystals will not break.

  • Temperature Control: Lead acid batteries must be kept within a certain temperature range, or else they will have a shorter working life. On top of that, they also get very hot while charging, which requires them to be charged and stored in a temperature-controlled space.

  • Fluid Level Management: These types of units must be checked to ensure they have enough water about once every 10 or so charging cycles.

Lithium-ion batteries are much less needy when it comes to forklift battery maintenance, as they equalize automatically, function well in much higher temperatures (making temperature mostly a non-issue), and do not require any fluid level management.

For comparison: 

 

Lithium Forklift Batteries: The Complete Guide [Pros, Cons, Costs]

That’s it: You now know everything you need to know about lithium forklift batteries.

Now, we'd like to hear from you.

What brought you to the page in the first place?

Are you a long-time lead-acid battery user considering a switch?

Do you currently use lithium-ion forklift batteries but want to know more about them?

Or maybe you have a question that we didn’t answer?

Please let us know in the comments section!

5 Reasons Why Li-ion Forklift Batteries Are Better than Lead-Acid

Stop right there. 

If you’re right around the corner from purchasing electric forklifts for your business, there are a few things you should know before you do.

A lot of smart businesses are choosing electric for all the right reasons.

But there’s one type of electric forklift that’s an absolute game-changer - those with lithium-ion batteries.

Stay tuned to learn more about why and how they might make a difference in your business.

Li-ion Batteries - Not Your Granddad’s Batteries

The only thing more important than the power source for your forklift is the person operating it.

Lead-acid batteries are the traditional electric option and it’s been that way for years, back to the release of electric forklifts around the 1950s. They’ve proven to be reliable, and improvements have been made over time to make them more suitable to rugged operations, though they do require a lot of maintenance.

Lithium-ion batteries were not mass-produced until the 1990s and are built around smarter, cleaner, more efficient technology that has advanced even further today.

In fact, this is the same tech that powers Tesla’s electric vehicles. In other words, they’re not your grandad’s batteries.   

The 5 Benefits of Switching to Li-ion

Truth be told, there are more than five reasons to switch, but before we go any further, we can tell you right now the best way to make an informed decision yourself.

If you have anybody you know who has made the switch to li-ion, call them. The countless people that we’ve seen make the switch to li-ion are excited about the difference it makes, for the reasons we’ll cover below.

1. Li-ion batteries are low maintenance

For a lot of people we talk to, this is the biggest difference - they love the fact that little to no maintenance is required.

Lead-acid batteries contain a balance of acid and water, and when that acid sinks to the bottom (a regular occurrence), that’s when the battery needs to be equalized. If you have these batteries, you’re probably already familiar with this process, because it happens maybe once a week. And when it does, the forklift doesn’t hold a charge nearly as well.

Also, the fluid levels need regular checking, and the temperature must be carefully regulated with cool-down periods. If not, the life of the battery will be reduced. Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, have no fluid, no trouble with reasonable temperature changes, and they equalize themselves.

Not only will you save money that would have otherwise been spent on regular maintenance, but you’ll also save on energy bills thanks to li-ion battery's high energy efficiency.

2. Li-ion forklifts run longer

Want to increase your team’s productivity? Li-ion batteries have longer run times, which means fewer interruptions and more spent time doing tasks that add value, rather than charging forklift batteries.

Li-ion performance does not decrease over time as the battery discharges, unlike FLA batteries. 

3. Li-ion forklifts are easier to charge

It’s important that operators monitor battery power on any electric model. However, for lead-acid batteries, the forklift must not be used past the 30% mark, with some manufacturers recommending that operators don’t go under 50%. 

Lead-acid batteries can be used until the 20% mark before they require charging, another factor that reduces downtime and increases team productivity. Also, li-ion batteries don’t need to be swapped out as FLA batteries do. Li-ion batteries charge faster and allow operators to “opportunity charge,” which is to say they can charge in-between break times since no cooldown period is required.

(Charge Time Source)

4. Li-ion forklifts have longer lifespans

Li-ion forklifts have longer lives than their lead-acid counterparts.

Whereas a lead-acid battery model might last 1,500 cycles under normal conditions, a li-ion battery model should last between 2,000 and 3,000.

5. Li-ion forklifts are safer for the environment and people

Of course, any electric option is going to be cleaner than the fumes that come from combustion engines, so this point is especially important to businesses who care about their environmental and community impact. 

Since lead-acid batteries are made of lead and sulfuric acid, they still pose a few risks that li-ion batteries don’t. If improperly handled, the fluid could spill. And charging stations must be carefully vented because, as the batteries charge, they heat up and can produce fumes.

If you’re capable of replacing your FLA battery charging station area, you can open up room for additional storage, which is something just about every business can appreciate. Especially if it means less clutter in high-traffic areas.

2 More Things You Should Know About Lithium-ion Forklifts

Now, to be transparent, li-ion forklifts do cost more upfront, but they quickly pay for themselves in the amount saved on maintenance alone, not to mention other factors, such as increased productivity and energy efficiency.

And the last thing you should know is that we have several strong OEM partners that offer a wide variety of li-ion solutions, not just forklifts. Depending on what your business needs, from walkies to 80V industrial forklifts, our team of experts, backed by our partners, is here to help you learn more so that you can make the best choice for your business. 

If you’re ready to find out how you can implement li-ion into your fleet, contact us online or by phone today and we’ll be more than happy to help.

Auburn 253-854-5438
Pasco 509-547-7413
Wenatchee 509-663-9009
Yakima 509-457-5137

Further Reading:
How to Switch from IC to Electric Forklifts to Go Green and Save Money
Top 3 Best-Selling Forklift Clamps in Washington State
How To Calculate Forklift Minimum Aisle Widths

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