Evaluating newer technology can be confusing at first. With lithium-ion being more technologically advanced, there are many factors to consider when determining a customer’s needs.
Understanding a customer’s energy, labor, and maintenance needs will help better find solutions for their operations. By asking the right questions when a customer comes to a dealer for solutions, you’ll be better prepared to determine if lithium-ion is the right fit.
1. Are you running multiple shifts per day? And do the batteries last throughout all shifts?
2. Is charging your battery a hassle?
3. Is battery maintenance giving you a headache?
4. What are your energy costs?
5. What are your concerns about safety?
With lithium-ion technology, there is no need for battery swapping. Lithium-ion battery packs have a 25% longer run time than lead acid batteries, keeping the forklift in service longer. Since lithium-ion batteries have longer run times, managers can purchase 1 battery instead of the 2-3 lead acid batteries needed to support a multi-shift operation.
An added benefit is that operations can reclaim the lead acid battery charging area for additional space, such as inventory storage or manufacturing needs.
Lithium-ion batteries can be fully charged in just 1 to 2 hours and opportunity charged for 15 or 30 minutes without permanent damage to the cell’s capacity.
This helps operators keep batteries in service longer by charging the battery in between shifts or while operators are on break.
Lithium-ion batteries usually remain in the forklift during charging while lead acid batteries need to be removed during charging. Not only do lead acid batteries have to be taken out of the lift equipment, but the charging and cooling-off period typically last up to 16 hours.
If a lead acid battery is not returned to its full charge after it has been used, it will be undercharged and there is a risk of damaging it.
Partially charging a lead acid battery can cause sulfating, which is the formation of lead sulfate that occurs on the battery’s plates. This diminishes the battery’s performance. It can even lead to battery failure, a costly mistake if your goal is to use a lead acid battery for its estimated lifespan (an average of 1,000 charging cycles).
Unlike lead acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries can be opportunity charged. Partially charging a lithium-ion battery does not damage it and is more convenient because equipment operators can charge the battery as needed during breaks or shift downtimes. And, this doesn’t impact its average lifespan of 3,500 cycles.
Overcharging a lead acid battery can be just as harmful as undercharging it. If workers leave the battery in a continuously charging state for long periods of time, corrosion of the positive battery plates can occur.
Lead acid batteries can also get very hot while charging. So, if workers overcharge a battery, it can cause damage on the inside due to longer exposure to excessive temperatures.
The odds of this occurring are greater when workers allow the battery to experience a deep discharge, requiring extended time to return the battery to full charge.
If a lead acid battery overcharges and overheats, pressure generated from the hydrogen and oxygen gas must be relieved or it can rupture.
Lithium-ion batteries feature a state-of-the-art battery management system that tracks cell temperatures while charging to ensure they remain in safe temperature ranges. Unlike lead acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries do not require separate charging and cooling areas because of the risks outlined above.
Built-in controllers prevent overcharging, in order to prevent dendrites from forming that can cause significant damage to lithium-ion batteries.
● Checking electrolyte levels
● Cleaning corrosion
● Equalizing charges
lead acid batteries are filled with an electrolyte solution (sulfuric acid and water) and feature a removable top. They generate electricity through a chemical reaction of the lead plates and sulfuric acid. This type of battery requires regular refilling with water or the chemical process will degrade and the battery will suffer an early failure.
One of the biggest mistakes workers make is under watering the battery. If water that is lost during the charging process is not replenished and the electrolyte levels drop below the top of the plates, significant damage can occur.
In hotter environments, water depletion can occur at an even faster rate.
Because of the way lithium-ion batteries are designed, they do not require watering. Lithium-ion batteries are sealed shut, which means the electricity-generating chemicals stay inside.
Over watering can cause significant damage to a lead acid battery as well. When a battery is over watered, the electrolytes become diluted. This will diminish the battery’s performance.
Over watering also creates the risk of the spillage, which is a dangerous mixture of toxic sulfuric acid.
Why Lithium-ion Batteries are Better:
Again, lithium-ion batteries do not require watering because of the way they are designed. Lithium-ion batteries are sealed shut, so workers do not have to monitor water levels or worry about spills of highly-toxic sulfuric acid occurring.
● Forgetting to check ventilation holes: Ventilation holes allow hydrogen gas to escape. If gas is unable to relieve itself, a pressure build-up can cause an instant explosion, resulting in devastating consequences for employees and the facility.
● Skipping a cooldown period: The lifespan of a lead acid battery can be shortened when exposed to extreme temperatures, especially heat. After charging a lead acid battery, workers must ensure it undergoes a cooldown period of 8 hours because the act of charging produces high amounts of heat. A cooldown period allows the battery to resume safe temperatures before going back into service.
● Discharging the battery too deeply: The life of a lead acid battery suffers when a deep discharge occurs and the battery is left “dead” for an extended amount of time. Workers should only discharge a lead acid battery down to about 30% or the battery can be damaged.
With lead acid batteries, it is crucial to maintain the battery to ensure a long lifespan and reduce safety concerns. If operators skip these maintenance tasks, the risk of overheating can occur.
Not only will lithium-ion batteries save warehouse employees time, but they will eliminate the associated maintenance costs.
Reducing energy costs is a big factor operations take into account when looking for solutions to power their equipment.
Lithium-ion batteries are 30-50% more energy efficient than lead acid batteries. Higher levels of energy efficiency mean operations are using less energy to charge up a lithium-ion battery pack versus a lead acid battery.
While lead acid batteries seem like a better investment upfront, considering energy costs, a lithium-ion battery pack's total cost of ownership is usually lower.
Employing lithium-ion technology in lift equipment means that, operators can eliminate safety hazards such as:
● Acid spills
● Noxious fumes during charging
One of the biggest safety hazards of using lead acid batteries is overcharging. During overcharging, the electrolyte solution in a lead acid battery can overheat. This causes hydrogen and oxygen gas to form, which increases pressure inside the lead acid battery.
● Lithium-ion batteries offer several features that reduce the risk for common maintenance mistakes.
● One of the best features of a lithium-ion battery is its battery management system. This internal system monitors cell temperatures to ensure they remain in safe operating ranges so there is no risk to employees. It also monitors currents and voltages to ensure they stay at safe levels.
● One of the biggest advantages of lithium-ion batteries is that they don’t require a separate storage area for charging and cooling, which means that businesses can use valuable floor space for more productive purposes.
● Lithium-ion batteries can also be safely discharged down to 20% capacity, allowing equipment operators to utilize the battery longer before it is discharged too deeply.
Customers that are looking for a battery pack to power their equipment want to know that they are being given the best option for their specific needs. With the many benefits lithium-ion battery packs provide, equipment dealers play an important role in guiding customers to the best choice to powering their equipment.
By knowing which questions to ask your customers, you will determine if lithium-ion technology is the right fit for your customer’s operations, which will make the transition to lithium-ion a smooth experience.
All of these features point toward saving companies money by using lithium-ion batteries. Less maintenance means lower costs overall. In fact,
Are you considering converting your forklift fleet to an electric drive? Then lithium-ion technology could be a solution for you. In this blog post, we give you answers to the fifteen most frequently asked questions about lithium-ion batteries in forklifts.