lithium forklift batteries vs Lead Acid Forklift Batteries: Which Are Best?
Especially in recent years, the world of batteries has grown to include a plethora of very different options. They all achieve the same thing, but their ease of use, safety, reliability, efficiency, affordability and environmental impact all vary significantly – which can make it difficult to choose. Luckily, for those of you who depend on forklifts to run your businesses, the choice essentially comes down to two preferred types of forklift batteries: lead-acid and lithium-ion.
The biggest reason is that the potential cost savings are enormous. It’s true that lithium forklift batteries do cost considerably more than lead acid batteries, but they last 2-3 times longer and create dramatic savings in other areas that guarantee you a significantly lower total cost of ownership.
Here are some of the key advantages that make powering your electric lift trucks with lithium batteries a smart decision:
● Dramatic cost savings
● Lower total cost of ownership
● Longer life span
● Longer warranties
● Safer operations
● Faster, more efficient charging
● No need for a battery room
● Less down time
So, let’s look at how they stack up.
How Are These Batteries Different?
Lead-acid battery technology is a century and a half old, having been first successfully invented back in 1859. The technology has greatly improved since then and has held on until the present day.
Lithium-ion battery technology, on the other hand, was first introduced in 1991, when Sony put them on the market. These revolutionary batteries make every modern convenience possible today: smartphones, tablets, Teslas, etc.
The most important difference for these two types of batteries, when it comes to powering forklifts, is their ease of use. Lead-acid batteries require 8 hours to charge and 8 hours to cool down, ambient-controlled storage rooms, heavy swapping practices, exposure to corrosive acid, watering maintenance and other time-intensive routines. Lithium-ion, on the other hand, simply needs to be plugged in for an hour or two when the battery gets low on charge. fast-charging-of-lithium-battery
Dramatic cost savings:
Because lithium ion batteries last so much longer than traditional lead acid batteries, the cost savings begin to add up quickly and end up being substantial over the much longer life span of this game-changing forklift power source.
Other factors that contribute to a more cost-efficient warehouse operation include:
● Far less money spent on energy for charging batteries
● Less time and labor expended by workers swapping out lead acid batteries
● Less time and labor spent maintaining and watering lead acid batteries
● Less energy wasted (a lead acid battery burns off 45-50% of its energy in heat, while a lithium battery loses only 10-15%)
Lithium-ion batteries charge faster, don’t emit potentially harmful gases while charging and do not require cool-down interval used in charging lead-acid batteries. These are all enticing benefits. However, for now it seems lead-acid is the mainstay, even given that the watt-per hour cost of lithium-ion is five times that of lead-acid. We will have to see major changes from the forklift manufacturers before lithium-ion surpasses the revered traditional lead-acid forklift battery.
What About Maintenance?
The charging routine isn’t the only maintenance that lead-acid batteries require. There are a number of things that need to be looked at regularly:
Equalizing: When the acid and water inside of a lead-acid battery become stratified, meaning the battery acid is more concentrated toward the bottom of the unit, it won’t hold a charge quite as well. This is why many of these batteries need to be equalized (cell balanced), which rebalances everything – and requires a charger with an equalization setting (and has to be done every 5-10 charging cycles).
Fluid levels: Lead-acid forklift batteries need to have the correct amount of water to work at their best level. Fluid will likely need to be topped off every 10 charges, approximately. “Watering batteries” can be messy, tedious work for a single battery, yet quickly becomes a laborious chore to manage when dealing with fleets of lifts in large operations.
Temperature: Lead-acid batteries lose cycles, and therefore have a shorter lifespan, when they are stored and used in higher temperatures.
All of these considerations mean that lead-acid forklift batteries often need preventative maintenance contracts.
Meanwhile, lithium-ion batteries perform cell balancing/equalizing automatically when they are charged to 100%. There is no fluid to deal with and ambient temperatures have less effect on lithium-ion.
When it comes to maintenance, lithium forklift batteries certainly come out on top.
How Long Do They Last?
The service life of lead acid batteries is, in general, around 1500 cycles. That number, however, is greatly impacted by the use and maintenance of each battery. Not properly charging, storing, or equalizing the battery will reduce the number of discharge cycles that a battery can handle in its lifetime.
Lithium forklift batteries generally last for close to double that of lead acid batteries: 3000 cycles.
What About Safety Concerns?
Another big difference that businesses need to consider is the safety of their employees who have to work with these forklift batteries personally. After all, both of these batteries are driven by powerful chemicals.
Lead Acid forklift batteries are made from toxic lead and sulfuric acid, which – as you probably already know – aren’t anywhere close to healthy for humans to ingest. These batteries must be watered weekly, which leads to risk of spilling the dangerous acid if it’s not done safely. They also generate a lot of heat when they are charging, so they should be kept in a temperature-controlled room (which also costs money) and properly vented. On top of that, they can even spew out an explosive gas when they reach the top of their charge.
Lithium-ion batteries from Wisdom Power are built with one of the most stable lithium-ion chemical combinations out there: Lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP). The cells are completely sealed, so there is no risk of spills. The only potential risk is that the electrolyte is flammable and one chemical component inside lithium batteries produces a corrosive gas when it comes in contact with water. But, because lithium-ion batteries are sealed, there is no corrosion, sulfation, acid spills or contamination to worry about usually – which is much better for the environment as well.
Here at Wisdom Power, we are industrial battery experts. We carry industry leading brands like BSLBATT, whose batteries deliver a level of performance and reliability unmatched by any in the industry. We are experts in battery handling technologies. With batteries, chargers, parts, accessories and systems installations, make sure you talk with a Wisdom Power battery expert if you are in the market for traditional lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries and battery handling charging systems to power your business forward.
7 Reasons to Use Lithium-ion Batteries in Electric Forklifts
These batteries offer a broad range of advantages for many warehouses and distribution centers because of the ease of charging. Opportunity charging provides the ability to plug in the battery without taking it out of the forklift, as opposed to swapping batteries its lead-acid counterpart requires.
High-throughput operations tend to see the biggest bang for their buck when using LIBs, but the benefits are broader than just the return on investment. As the technology behind these batteries advances, we see a broader range of companies using them.
How to Choose the Best Forklift Battery for Your Warehouse
Batteries that power electric forklifts are a considerable expense to any operation. Knowing all the facts upfront will help you make a wise investment.
Perhaps the most important fact to know when determining return on investment is how long will the battery last. There are three important things to consider when determining forklift battery life: Battery type, usage and maintenance.
Exploring how these factors play a role in a battery’s lifespan, will help you choose the best forklift battery for your operation.
There are generally two different types of electric forklift batteries: Lead-acid and Lithium .
Lead-acid battery technology was invented in 1859 by French physicist Gaston Plante This type of battery uses electrolyte to generate power through a chemical reaction between lead plates and sulfuric acid. Lead-acid batteries require regular watering. Without this maintenance, the chemical process degrades and the battery will suffer premature failure.
Lithium battery technology is relatively new, especially in the motive power arena. Lithium batteries are more energy dense than lead-acid, which allows them to be more efficient, particularly in multi-shift operations. Because the cells are sealed shut, they do not require watering maintenance. Lithium chemistries vary greatly, which is why it is important to use a battery that has gone through rigorous testing and has received UL listing approval.
Next consider how you’ll be using the equipment.
Most companies measure battery life in terms of cycle counts. In general, a well-maintained lead-acid battery should last between 1,000 and 1,500 cycles. A lithium battery generally lasts between 2,000 and 3,000 cycles.
If you run a multi-shift operation, you must take into consideration that lead-acid batteries take about 8 hours to charge, and then require another 8 hours for a cooling period. You may need two or three lead-acid batteries per one forklift depending on your business. In addition to the charging and cooling time, multi-shift operations should factor in labor for multiple battery changes and infrastructure and space costs.
Lithium batteries take only 1 to 2 hours to charge and do not require a cooling down period. It is important to opportunity charge in between shifts and during lunch breaks. The general rule is anytime the forklift will be idle 5 minutes or more, plug in for charging. With proper charging, one lithium battery can power one forklift for all three shifts.
Next, consider proper care of the battery types.
Proper care significantly impacts how long your forklift battery will last. It’s essential to follow manufacturer recommendations to ensure your battery performs at its maximum potential. Not following proper safety protocols or keeping up with routine maintenance can significantly decrease the lifespan of a battery.
Lead-acid batteries require more maintenance because, as mentioned above, they must be watered in order to prevent degradation of the chemical process. And there’s more. Lead acid batteries accumulate sulfuric acid deposits over time that must be cleaned regularly by trained and qualified personnel. Factoring in labor and process time to properly maintain lead acid batteries often negates the benefit of lead-acid’s lower initial purchase price.
Lithium batteries, on the other hand, don’t require as much maintenance. In fact, most lithium batteries like Revel, have an internal battery management system which helps ensure the battery cells remain balanced. Also, there is no need to change batteries, eliminating the time and cost of additional equipment, space and labor. Lithium batteries are transforming the material handling industry because they offer increased efficiency and lower maintenance over their lead-acid counterpart.
When it comes to your battery’s lifespan, many factors come into play, from the type of battery to whether proper maintenance is performed. Be sure to consider all prior to your battery purchase decision.
If you’d like to experience the benefits of lithium forklift batteries, contact Revel Industrial Batteries to get a full look into how they can impact your operation.