Lithium Powered Forklifts2022-04-01T10:29:25+00:00

Lithium battery powered forklifts

THE FULL EP FORKLIFT RANGE

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Founded in 1993, EP is one of the fastest growing budget forklift manufacturers in the market, with 30% annual sales growth.

A leader in Lithium-ion machines, it has spent over a decade developing it’s European infrastructure and is now the No 1 global manufacturer of Class III machines (electric pallet trucks, stackers, and tow tractors etc). 

THE FULL HC FORKLIFT RANGE

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HC owns 30% of the battery company CATL, which also provides batteries for Tesla, BMW, VW, among many others.

With an 80 Volt system, German built drive motors and 10 year / 20,000 hours battery warranty, it’s popularity has surged – annual forklift trucks and warehouse equipment production now exceeds 120,000 units.

What are the benefits?

Having an 8 hour charging cycle, as is the case with most lead acid types, can be incredibly restrictive for MHE users.

Not all shifts are equal and not all trucks will fit neatly into a regular use/charge cycle. The issue can be mitigated with spare batteries, but costs and battery-change areas are expensive and take up space.

Lead acid batteries also give off toxic and flammable hydrogen gas during charging, meaning they require careful handling and maintenance, usually in a bespoke ventilated room.

The convenience of charging at any time means a single battery can be topped up as needed, particularly useful for operations that have varying workflows.

Lithium batteries takes 2-3 hours to charge while lead-acid needs at least 8 hours.

While lead acid batteries always need a full charge cycle to keep the batteries chemistry in balance, Lithium-Ion batteries can be plugged in the wall and charged for 10 minutes, say during a lunch break.

This offers a simpler way to work your shifts and reduces equipment downtime.

It is interesting to note that whilst the speed and convenience provided by ‘opportunity charging’ is generally considered one of lithium’s biggest advantages over lead-acid batteries, when asked, the majority of customers cite longer life cycles as the key benefit.

EP sees this as a vindication of the technology’s ability to improve efficiency, but perhaps the main perceived benefit is the value of the investment. If it lasts longer, it’s worth the extra cost.

Lithium-ion batteries have a lifecycle of 3000 or more compared to just 500-1000 cycles in lead acid.

Lithium-ion batteries generally last for several times the number of cycles as lead acid batteries, leading to a longer effective lifespan for lithium-ion products.

Cycles are also counted in % of charge rather than one cycle every time you connect the battery to the charger. This means: 10% charge is 1/10 of a cycle with a Li-Ion battery, while a 10% charge at a lead acid battery is 1 full cycle.

If lead acid batteries are not completely discharged and then fully re-charged, their lifespan and performance levels drop due to sulfation.

Sulfation is the formation of sulfate crystal deposits on the battery’s plates, which damage it and reduces its effectiveness.

Lead acid batteries also require regular topping with de-ionised water (at the right time and in the right way) and an equalization charge to force the current through all areas with crystal build-up to try to restore the battery to full health.

Since lithium batteries allow for opportunity charging, it makes it possible for one battery to power a forklift for multiple shifts without needing to be exchanged. This can greatly reduce labour costs, not to mention the cost of spare batteries, battery change equipment etc., and can save a significant amount of time.

For industrial batteries, the batteries and charger are typically made by a third-party manufacturer. These may have a variety of special features adapting the battery for certain temperatures, ‘fast charging’, and more.

EP and HC benefit from having direct or indirect ownership of the process, meaning the electric systems are better integrated within the overall truck manufacturing process.

Battery safety is at the top of the list for both manufactures and end users. Lithium-ion batteries have several different versions which all depends on the application, for traction batteries there are 2 main types; LFP LiFEPO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) and NMC (Nickel Manganese Cobalt).

LFP types are by far the most stable and are resistant to overheating, even if they are punctured. See our advice on fires here: Do Lithium Battery Cells Catch Fire?

Most lithium-ion batteries are 95 percent efficient or more, meaning that 95 percent or more of the energy stored in a lithium-ion battery is actually able to be used.

Conversely, lead acid batteries see efficiencies closer to 80 to 85 percent.

Lead acid batteries may constitute the vast majority of the traction batteries in the MHE market, but the convenience and capacity of lithium ion has seen a rapid shift, with widespread customer adoption leaving legacy-manufacturers scrambling to catch up with the likes of HC & EP.

With improved manufacturing techniques and decades of experience of the materials handling sector, overall build quality is also on a par with its Japanese and Korean competitors.

Add to that the general move to electric, with the advantages of no-emissions, low noise pollution and sensitive driving characteristics, and it’s easy to see why the future looks bright for both brands.

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