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.

Battery Type
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.