Maximise your forklift's battery life

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Maximise your forklift's battery life

Maximise your forklift's battery life Nov. 11, 2023

Maximise your forklift's battery life

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Protect your investments

Rising fuel prices and environmental concerns have encouraged many forklift owners to make the switch to electric trucks. While battery power delivers substantial savings - especially in the current financial climate - these can quickly be lost by poor battery care.

A typical forklift battery is worth up to 30% of a new truck's value and offers you approximately 6,000 working hours. It is your fuel for the next five years or more... providing you look after it according to the manufacturer's maintenance guidelines.

In addition to this, our list of seven best practice battery care tips offers you some helpful hints and tips to help you avoid the common pitfalls and keep your battery (and truck) in peak condition.

1.    Schedule your workload around battery refuelling times

This reduces downtime and the risk of accidents caused by drivers rushing to recharge when the battery is running low.

Remember: Batteries should not be put on charge more than once a day.

2.    Don't run beneath 20% capacity

Deep discharging harms the battery and causes your forklift's electrical components to run hot - resulting in significant lift truck damage, including complete motor failure and burned components.

And if that weren't enough reason, your truck won't be running its best at that level, either. At 80% discharge your truck's traction and hydraulics will slow down, indicating that your battery is ready for changing.

If your battery does run flat - it will need a full, uninterrupted 8 hour charge cycle.

3.    Give your battery a lunch break

It's tempting to fall into the bad habit of quickly charging your truck during breaktimes. In the trade this is known as 'opportunity charging'. A battery's lifespan is determined by its charge cycles (i.e. how many charges it's had). Short charges will result in a steadily declining battery efficiency - to the point where it won't charge at all. Instead, allow your truck to cool off during downtime.

4.    Check your water level reguarly

Water plays a key role in the running (and life expectancy) of your forklift battery. During a charge cycle, it is heated up and splits into two gases, releasing hydrogen bubbles at the negative plates and oxygen at the positive. Allowing the water level in a cell to drop too low exposes plates to the air, allowing the active material in the plates to dry and become brittle, leading to permanent damage.

For this reason, it is essential for distilled water to be added to the battery at regular intervals (usually every 5 to 10 recharges). However don't be tempted to overfill! Ensure you fill only up to the desired mark or the water will expand and overflow... leading to permanent damage.

Always top up after charging, not before.

5.    Fast charge with caution

Fast charging might reduce downtime by as much as 10%, but it comes at a price. Any battery system can be fast charged, but the heat generated during the process can dramatically reduce a lead-acid battery's life expectancy. Nickel and lithium batteries suffer from this, but to a much lesser extent. A knowledgable dealer or battery supplier can advise on effective ways to avoid temperature control problems while increasing productivity.

Keep fast charging for emergencies.

6.    Keep a close eye on maintenance

One of the top causes of premature battery failure and loss is sulphation. This occurs naturally - as white sulphuric crystals attach to the lead plates - preventing the battery's ability to accept, hold and deliver a charge. This problem can be caused by overfilling and is most commonly experienced in warm environments. More information about this far-too-frequently occurring problem can be found here

Check your battery for the development of white crystals as part of your daily checks. If you do spot the tell-tale signs of sulphation request a visit from an engineer who can advise on corrective measures.

7.    Safeguard your charger

  • Action points

  • Do not charge a battery that has only been lightly discharged - it will prematurely destroy it!

  • Before disconnecting a battery from the charger, always make sure the cycle has finished

  • Only top up with distilled water

  • Check the condition of the charger's plug and socket regularly

  • Electric batteries produce a gas mixture that becomes explosive at just 4% concentration

  • Charging areas are dangerous - posing a variety of ventilation, ignition, chemical, electrical and environmental risks. Get a free site survey today.

How Many Years Does A Forklift Battery Last?

2020/12/29

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Lithium Forklift Battery

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Your forklifts are in constant use, and they need battery power to keep them in motion. But, as batteries age, they may not be running quite as efficiently as when they were new. The question is, how do you know when it’s time to replace your forklift batteries?


On average, a forklift battery will last a single-shift operation for five years. Proper care and maintenance can extend battery life up to ten years. Prolong the life of your forklift battery by following these easy Do’s and Don’ts when charging, operating, and handling forklift batteries.


Batteries that power electric forklifts can be a considerable expense, especially if you’re purchasing batteries for multiple forklifts. 

One of the first questions you’re likely to ask about a forklift battery: How long will this battery last? 

Depending on the type of battery you purchase, there are general estimations available. However, a lot of factors play a significant role in how many years a forklift battery will power your equipment, including:


● Battery type


● Usage


● Maintenance


Once you explore how these factors play a role in a battery’s lifespan, you can better determine what the true answer is to the question of how long a forklift battery lasts.


Battery Types

Electric forklifts generally are powered by one of two different types of batteries:

● Lead-acid


● Lithium-ion


The technology between the two differs greatly, and therefore uniquely impacts forklift efficiency and battery lifespan. 


Lead-acid batteries are filled with electrolyte (sulfuric acid and water) and generate electricity through a chemical reaction between lead plates and sulfuric acid. The technology has been used for decades as the standard method for powering forklifts. 


Heavier in size, lead-acid batteries can be especially problematic when they must be removed for charging and storage. Lead-acid batteries also require regular refilling with water, or the chemical process will degrade and the battery will suffer an early failure.


Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, feature newer technology. They are more compact and energy-dense than lead-acid, which allows them to be more efficient. Unlike lead-acid, the cells are sealed shut, requiring no water maintenance. This type of battery can have many different chemistries, though one of the most popular for the material handling industry is Lithium Iron Phosphate.



Usage

 

If electric forklift batteries are well maintained, both lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries deliver average cycle counts that can help you gauge how many years they will last based on your operation. 


● Lead-acid batteries generally last between 1,000 and 1,500 cycles.


● Lithium-ion batteries generally last between 2,000 and 3,000 cycles.


It’s important to note that lead-acid batteries take about 8 hours to charge, and then require another 8 hours for a cooling period. Therefore, one lead-acid battery can only power a forklift for one shift. If your business is a multi-shift operation, you will need two or three lead-acid batteries per one forklift. 


Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, only take 1 to 2 hours to charge and do not require a cooling down period. Opportunity charging can take place in between shifts or during lunch breaks, for example. Therefore, one lithium-ion battery can power one forklift for all three shifts. 


So, if your business only has one shift in which a forklift is used, a lead-acid battery that is well maintained should last around 5 years (1,500 cycles over 300 workdays per year). A lithium-ion battery, in comparison, should last 10 years or more (3,000 cycles over 300 workdays per year).


*Numbers are based on an average 6-day operational work week, with 12 days non-operational for holidays or plant shutdowns.


Lithium-ion batteries will last fewer years than the scenario described above if they are used during multi-shift operations since crews will reach cycle count maximums more quickly. 


However, lithium-ion batteries are still the most cost-efficient option. Due to charging and cooling requirements, multi-shift operations that use lead-acid batteries require multiple batteries to power their forklifts. This incurs significantly higher labor and infrastructure costs - negating the benefit of lead-acid’s lower initial purchase price. 


How old is too old?

The simple answer is: you should first refer to your forklift owner’s manual. This information was compiled for a good reason. It will give you a general idea of how long a battery should remain efficient under typical use and charging protocol.


But, how well you care for — and charge — each battery can add or subtract time from that average timeframe. This is where telematic battery-monitoring technology comes in handy, ensuring:


● Proper and complete charging takes place


● Thorough record-keeping of battery cleaning


Overall battery health is monitored and you are notified when batteries begin to fail


● This is when your batteries should be replaced.


How to postpone new battery purchases

Why spend money before you have to? Regular maintenance is more effective if it is based on data that deems it necessary.  Battery-monitoring technology provides that data — allowing you to be proactive in extending the life of your batteries and replacing them when necessary.

Monitoring postpones new battery purchases because it ensures that you:

Charge when it is needed, not when it is convenient: Don’t opportunity charge and don’t swap mid-shift. Premature charging eats away at the battery life: Each charge costs a battery a cycle, cutting its lifespan. Most new batteries will last approximately 1,500 cycles. A battery charged once each workday — about 300 times in a year — can last up to five years. Charge batteries at the end of each shift, or if it is more than 30% discharged.


Fully charge each time: Batteries must get fully recharged Failing to do so will cut the run-time and lifespan.


Keep it clean: Monthly, clean the top of the batteries with a battery cleaner or warm water. Regular cleaning prevents build-up from the cell breather during the charging process.


Water only when the battery is fully charged: Water boils in a charging battery, so too much water will overflow, causing damage. Water levels should be checked and filled correctly about every 10 charges for the first few years.


Use the proper amount of water: Too much or too little water can also cut the lifespan of the battery. There is enough water when the level is high enough to cover the lead plates inside each cell.


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.


For more information on getting the most out of your battery, our article, There are several advantages to using BSL lithium batteries over lead-acid batteries for prolonging your battery’s lifespan.


Bottom Line

 

It’s a logical question to ask anytime you’re making a significant purchase: How long will it last? 


But, when it comes to your battery’s lifespan, many factors come into play, from the type of battery to whether proper maintenance is performed. 


Lithium-ion batteries, in particular, are transforming the material handling industry because of their increased efficiency and low maintenance. No matter which type you use in your fleet, however, it’s critical to properly charge, store, and maintain your forklift batteries to maximize their lifespan - and value. 

8 Tips to Increase Forklift Battery Life Up to 40% | Wisdom Power

Lead Acid Forklift Batteries

Lead-acid batteries are the most common in the forklift market. They are sometimes referred to as wet cell batteries. Components include a battery case, cells, and cables, as well as a mixture of sulfuric acid and water. 

Electric forklifts have increased in popularity in recent times due to rising fuel costs and a greater awareness about environmental problems. An electric forklift has many benefits over a conventional one, but if you do not care for it, your savings can quickly evaporate.

Before we look into how to maintain your forklift battery life, it’s useful to know that most batteries start with 1500 charging cycles before they expire. If you charge your forklift battery once every working day (300 days) for a year then that battery will last you for 5 years. This is why looking after your battery is important because, when you do, there are some huge benefits.

For instance, did you know that with proper care you can increase the life of your battery by over 40%? It will also decrease your expenses, improve battery safety and maintain the forklift’s performance.

The battery on your electric forklift can constitute up to 30% of the cost of the vehicle. On average, it can serve you for 6000 hours. But, to get this benefit, you will have to take care of it accordingly. 

With our expertise, we help you sort through the options and find the battery and charger that’s perfect for your application. UNLIKE MOST INTERNET STORES, WE GET TO KNOW OUR CUSTOMERS.

Here are our 8 top tips for how best to maintain your forklift truck battery

1) FORKLIFT BATTERY CHARGING

Stick to protocol when it comes to forklift battery maintenance and charging your lift trucks. Batteries have a finite number of cycles, if you charge based on convenience instead of sticking to a schedule; you can potentially shorten the battery’s life. The general rule of thumb is to recharge the battery after an eight-hour shift or when it’s discharged more than 30%. If you charge too frequently when it is not more than 30% discharged, you will shorten the battery life. The following charging tips are also considered best practices:

● If possible, let the forklift battery charge completely once you’ve started to charge it. Cutting a charging cycle short can also be harmful to the battery’s longevity. Be sure to fully recharge the battery once every day.

● Don’t let a discharged battery sit for too long - not more than a few hours to one day. By doing so, you increase the likelihood that hard sulfation will develop, which will reduce the run time and life of the battery.

● Don’t over-discharge your lift truck battery. If you discharge beyond 80% you’ll be doing long term irreparable damage to the battery and significantly shorten the battery life.

● Be aware of battery temperature when charging. Excessive heat will shorten battery life by half. Keep the forklift battery as close to 25C as is practical. And charging a cold battery around 15C or less requires extra time as well as temperature compensation on the battery charger to achieve proper charge voltages. 

2) FORKLIFT CHARGING STATIONS

In addition to these electric forklift battery maintenance tips, for safety purposes, it’s also highly recommended that a facility be set up with a designated battery charging area. This area should have clear signage, available water supply for eye washing, ventilation, a fire extinguisher, and a phone in case of emergencies.  Additionally, these other safety precautions are recommended:

● Prohibit smoking near the designated battery changing area.

● Avoid wearing metallic jewelry while recharging lift truck batteries.

● Use appropriate handling equipment for lifting and moving heavy batteries.

● Wear appropriate protective equipment (safety goggles, gloves, apron, and/or face shield).

● Position forklifts appropriately and apply breaks before charging or changing batteries.

● For batteries with sealed vents, do not recharge with a current greater than 25 amperes.

● If the battery becomes hot or electrolyte fluid begins leaking from the vents, turn off the charger. When the battery has cooled, restart at a lower charging rate.

● Keep accurate records of battery watering, cleaning, inspections, and other maintenance, etc.

● Recycle or follow specified local procedures for battery disposal as they contain hazardous waste.

                          

3) DO NOT CHARGE DURING THE LUNCH BREAK

Many forklift operators have gotten into the habit of giving a quick charge to the battery during the lunch break or other break times. In the industry, this is called opportunity charging. The lifespan of the battery is determined by how many charge cycles it has undergone. When you charge it for a short while, you will have to do so more frequently. Over time, this habit will decrease the battery’s efficiency and there will come a point when the battery will not charge at all.

4) CHECK THE WATER LEVEL IN THE BATTERY

Water plays a very important role in maintaining the health of the battery. During a cycle, the water gets heated up and splits into its components- hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen gets discharged at the negative plate and oxygen at the positive one. With time, the water level will come down. When this happens, the plates are exposed to air. The active material on the plates will become dry and brittle, causing permanent damage. So check the water level regularly and keep adding distilled water whenever you notice that the water level has come down, but do not overfill the battery.

5) FAST CHARGE AT YOUR OWN RISK

Charging the forklift battery quickly will reduce downtime, but there is a price. The excessive heat generated can reduce the battery life. We are not saying that you should never fast charge, only that you reserve it for emergencies.

6) 

KEEP YOUR FORKLIFT BATTERY AT A SAFE TEMPERATURE

Oftentimes forklifts are used in rather extreme environments, but for optimal battery life, you’ll want to keep the operating temperature at or below 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius). If there’s no way around working in hotter temperatures, be certain the lift truck battery has a lot of circulation in the battery compartment so it can cool. Due to chemistry, the life of a battery is reduced by 50% for every 10 Dec C temperatures above 25C. So 35C longevity is half of 25C and 45C longevity is half of 35C.

7) EQUALIZING

Some batteries require equalizing, and if so they will often have an equalizing setting on their charger. What is equalizing a battery? At its core, equalizing a battery means that you are overcharging it to remove sulfate crystals that have built up on the plates. Sulfation, as mentioned in the charging section of this article, can shorten the battery’s life. Equalizing a battery also reverses acid stratification, which occurs when the acid concentration at the bottom of the battery is greater than that at the top. Not every lift truck battery requires equalizing, so check the specifications on your battery before adding this to your forklift battery maintenance routine. For wet cell batteries, these should be equalized about once per week. Do not equalize more than the recommended frequency per operating procedures.  More is not necessarily better!

8) 

CLEANING YOUR FORKLIFT BATTERY

Cleaning the top of the forklift batteries with battery cleaner or warm water is not only a good maintenance practice; it is also required on some batteries to maintain the warranty (check your warranty documentation just to be sure). We suggest a monthly cleaning even if it’s not required by your warranty to help avoid build-up, which can cause tray corrosion, faster self-discharge and possibly even impact the forklift’s electronics. Review the safety procedures listed above when preparing to clean a battery.

By taking care of your battery, your forklift truck will operate smoother and more efficiently. As the power source, the forklift depends on the battery, so make sure that your machine is taken care of by looking after its source of power too.

At Wisdom Power, we stock a huge range of battery-powered forklift trucks to work with you in a variety of environments. With such a range of choice, there will be something to suit you.

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