Compare lead acid and lithium ion batteries


In this day and age, not all batteries work in the same way-leading many companies to face choices when choosing their high-value material handling equipment and vehicles. Cost is always an issue, so ensuring that they work as efficiently as possible is always key.

There are so many companies in the world relying on well-functioning forklifts to operate, and the forklift batteries they choose will have a significant impact on their profits. So can lithium-ion batteries be a good substitute for lead-acid?

Compare lead acid and lithium ion batteries

The World of Forklift Batteries

In the realm of forklifts, there are two preferred types of power sources businesses typically go with….lead acid or lithium.

lead acid forklift batteries are the long-standing standard, known to be reliable technology that has been successfully used in forklifts for nearly a hundred years.


Lithium-ion battery technology, on the other hand, is a bit more recent, and has significant advantages when compared to their lead acid counterparts.

Between lead acid forklift batteries and lithium-ion forklift batteries, which one is better?

There are a number of variables to consider when making the right decision for your fleet. Let’s go through a point-by-point comparison of these two distinct power sources.

Basic Differences

Lead-acid batteries have a case with a battery of electrolyte mixture, water and sulfuric acid-they look like standard car batteries. Lead acid was first invented and used in 1859, but this type of battery has been improved over the years. This technology involves a chemical reaction with lead plates and sulfuric acid (a buildup of lead sulfate is formed), and requires regular addition of water and maintenance.

At the same time, lithium-ion technology was introduced into the consumer market in 1991. Lithium-ion batteries can be found in most of our portable devices (such as smartphones, tablets, and cameras). They also provide power for electric vehicles, such as Tesla.

For many buyers, the biggest difference is the price. Lead-acid forklift batteries are cheaper than lithium-ion forklift batteries. But the price difference reflects the long-term advantage, making lithium-ion batteries cheaper and cheaper over time.

Upkeep Of Forklift Batteries

When operating a forklift, not everyone thinks that its battery needs maintenance. Compare lead acid and lithium ion batteries, which battery you choose determines the time, energy and resources required for simple maintenance.

For lead-acid forklift batteries, their internal harsh chemical functions mean that they require more attention, such as:

Regular equalization: Traditional lead-acid batteries often experience a state of acid and moisture layers in them, which means that the acid is more concentrated near the bottom of the device. When this happens, it cannot charge a fee, which is why users need to reach battery balance (or equilibrium) frequently. A charger with a balanced setting can handle this problem, usually every 5-10 times.

Temperature control: If these types of batteries are stored at a temperature higher than the recommended temperature, their total life will be reduced, which will result in a shortened life.

Check the liquid level: These devices must have the right amount of water to work at the best efficiency, and they need to be replenished every 10 charging cycles.

Charging correctly: Speaking of charging, lead-acid forklift batteries need to be charged in some way, otherwise their working efficiency will be reduced (for more information on this issue, see below).

The maintenance checklist required for lead-acid battery packs usually results in companies spending extra money on preventive maintenance contracts.

Lithium-ion forklift batteries, for comparison, have very little maintenance involved:

No fluid to worry about

Temperatures don’t affect the battery’s health until they reach extremely high environments

Lithium-ion handles cell balancing/equalizing automatically with a battery management software system

When it comes to simplifying upkeep, lithium-ion takes an easy win.

Charging Forklift Batteries

The time required to charge each of these batteries is completely different. Lead-acid forklift batteries require 8 to 16 hours to fully charge, while lithium-ion forklift batteries can reach 100% charging speed in just one or two hours.

If you don’t charge either of these two batteries correctly, their effectiveness will decrease over time. However, lead acid has stricter guidelines, and there are many more to follow. Are lithium-ion forklift batteries better than lead-acid batteries

For example, lead-acid batteries cannot be charged in a forklift because this will cause the forklift to become unusable for the 18 to 24 hours required to charge and cool the battery. Therefore, companies usually have a battery room with shelves in which to charge lead-acid batteries.

Removing and lifting the heavy battery pack from the forklift will cause additional operations. The battery pack may weigh hundreds to thousands of pounds, so special equipment is required to complete this task. Also, each shift that the forklift must perform requires several spare batteries.

After the lead-acid battery powers the forklift, it should only be used until its remaining power reaches 30%-many manufacturers recommend not to let it drop below 50%. If they do not follow this recommendation, they will lose potential future cycles.

On the other hand, before long-term damage becomes a problem, lithium batteries can be used up to 20% of their remaining power. If necessary, a 100% fee can be used.

Unlike lead-acid, when the forklift is at rest, the lithium-ion battery can be charged in 1 to 2 hours “full opportunity”, and you don’t even need to remove the battery to charge. Therefore, double-shift work does not require fully-charged spare parts.

For all things related to charging, lithium-ion forklift batteries take much less time, are much less complex, and can improve production efficiency.

Length of Service Life

Like many business costs, purchasing forklift batteries is also a recurring expense. With this in mind, let us compare the service life of these batteries (measured by their service life):

Lead acid: 1500 cycles

Lithium-ion: Between 2,000 and 3,000 cycles

Of course, this assumes that the battery pack has been properly maintained. When talking about overall lifespan, the obvious winner is lithium ion.


The safety of forklift operators and those responsible for battery replacement or maintenance should be carefully considered by every company, especially when such harsh and powerful chemicals are involved. Like the previous category, the two types of forklift batteries differ in terms of workplace hazards:

Lead acid: The substances inside these batteries are highly toxic to the human body-lead and sulfuric acid. Since they need to be watered about once a week, if safety measures are not taken, the risk of leaking these dangerous substances will increase. They also produce toxic fumes and high heat when charging, so they should be stored in a temperature-controlled environment. In addition, when they reach their peak loading, they may leak explosive gases.

Lithium ion: This technology uses lithium iron phosphate (LFP), which is one of the most stable lithium ion chemical combinations. The electrodes are carbon and LFP, so they remain static and these types of batteries are completely sealed. This means there is no risk of acid leaks, corrosion, sulfation or any form of contamination. (The risk is small because the electrolyte is flammable, and the chemical components in the lithium-ion battery generate corrosive gases when in contact with water).

Safety comes first, as does lithium ion in the safety category.

Overall Efficiency

The only purpose of the battery is to generate energy, so how do these two types of forklift batteries compare in this field?

As you might have guessed, more modern technology beats the traditional battery style.

Lead-acid batteries are always consuming energy because they lose amps when powering forklifts, charging, or even when idling. After the discharge period begins, their voltage will drop at a gradually increasing rate-therefore, as forklifts work, their power will gradually decrease.

Lithium-ion forklift batteries maintain a constant voltage level during the entire discharge cycle, which can save up to 50% of energy compared with lead acid. Most importantly, lithium-ion storage is about three times more power.

Bottom line

Lithium-ion forklift batteries have advantages in each category…easy to maintain, faster charging, higher capacity, constant strength, longer service life, safer to use in the workplace, and more environmentally friendly.

Although the price of lead-acid forklift batteries is much cheaper, they require more care and have poor performance.

Compare lead acid and lithium ion batteries, for many companies that used to pay attention to price differences, they now see that the prepaid extra cost of lithium-ion batteries has been compensated by the many advantages provided over the long term. And they are turning to lithium-ion!

Share now

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.