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If you’re a business owner, or manager who relies on forklifts to operate your business, the type of industrial battery you choose will have a major impact on your company’s overall efficiency – and that’s true if you have just one electric lift vehicle or an entire fleet of forklifts in use. According to the type of electric forklift battery a business chooses, it can save a lot of time and money in the long run.
After determining which size forklift battery to be sold is compatible with your vehicle(s), the next and most important consideration to take is which type of electric forklift battery technology to use: lithium vs lead acid forklift batteries.
Commercial forklifts are usually powered by either of these two main types of batteries:lead acid and lithium ion.While there are other power options for forklifts, such as propane or diesel or gas power, the vast majority of commercial forklifts use either lead-acid, lithium-ion technology.The technology behind each of these industrial batteries differs greatly, and therefore,have different effects on forklift efficiency.
Lead-acid batteries are the old-school standard for powering forklifts. It is a bulky, liquid-filled unit with a removable top that generates electricity via a chemical reaction of lead plates and sulfuric acid. It can be traced back to 1859, and involves regularly refilling of the units with water (which is also necessary for the chemical process of power generation that takes place).
Lithium-ion batteries are a newer technology, having been first used in a commercial product in the early 1990s, a Sony camcorder. Lithium-ion batteries have many different chemical properties.One of the most popular chemicals in the material handling industry is lithium iron phosphate (LFP). It is more compact and has a higher energy density than lead acid. The cells are sealed shut and require no water maintenance.
Both lithium-ion batteries and their lead-acid counterparts should be cared for properly if they are to perform up to their full potential. If the electric forklift battery is not properly maintained according to regulations, its service life will be shortened.
In order to maximize service life and overall battery capacity, certain measures should be taken for users of both battery types. However, compared with lithium-ion batteries, lead-acid batteries require more attention and attention.
Equalizing (Cell Balancing): Traditional technology like this leads to a frequent state where the acid and water inside become stratified (separated horizontally with the acid more concentrated closer to the bottom). This state forms sulfate crystals towards the bottom of the cells and weaken their ability to hold a charge. Equalization will destroy the sulfate crystals but if the battery have been ignored for too long, the crystals will not break.
Temperature Control: Lead-acid batteries must be kept within a certain temperature range, otherwise the service life will be shortened. Most importantly, they also become very hot while charging, which requires them to be charged and stored in a temperature-controlled space.
Fluid Level Management: These types of equipment must be checked to ensure they have enough water about once every 10 or so charging cycles.
Lithium-ion batteries are much less needy when it comes to electric forklift battery maintenance, as they equalize automatically, function well in much higher temperatures (making temperature mostly a non-issue), and don’t require any fluid level management.
With such powerful chemicals involved, safety is of the utmost importance when handling both of these forklift battery types. Although one of them obviously provides safety advantages for the typical workplace. Let’s examine lithium-ion and lead-acid forklift batteries, because they are related to workplace safety.
Lead-acid forklift battery safety risks:
Old or Corroded Batteries: Brand new lead-acid batteries that are charged appropriately will not expose workers to the aforementioned conditions. However, old or corroded lead-acid batteries are a real danger to the people working with them and should be properly disposed of immediately.
Spills: The highly-toxic sulfuric acid within these batteries can definitely overflow, especially since this equipment need to be watered about once a week. If watering is not safe, your employees will be at risk which necessitates a chemical washing station in the workplace.
Overheating: These batteries get incredibly hot while they charge, and can leak an explosive gas after reaching peak charge, making temperature control very important to safety. Forklift battery charging station safety must be carefully managed.
Lithium-ion forklift batteries are sealed, so there is no potential for acid spills, corrosion, sulfation or any sort of contamination in the workplace. The chemical combination within these more-advanced batteries does pose a minuscule risk of expelling a corrosive gas when it comes in contact with water, but it’s quite rare.