Lead Acid VS Lithium Ion Forklift Batteries Comparison



In this article we compare lithium ion forklift battery types by looking at power and energy, charging, maintenance, safety,life, and more. Which type is better for your forklift..

When it comes time to replace batteries for your electric forklifts, start by checking your owner’s handbook. Your forklift’s manufacturer will let you know which types of forklift batteries you can choose and how powerful the battery needs to be. At Spaceflight Power, the forklift battery sizes range from 24 volt to 80 volt, the capacity range from 100Ah to 1550Ah at 5 hour discharge rate.

Once you know the power you need, you can consider the type of battery to use.

Lead-acid batteriesThe most commonly used type. Lead plates act as electrodes suspended in a sulphuric acid solution.

Lithium ion (Li-ion) forklift batteriesMore technologically advanced. Electrodes are made from lithium compounds.

Comparison of Lead Acid and Lithium Ion Forklift Batteries

Here’s what you need to know to choose the best batteries for your forklift and your situation.


1.Power and energy

First at all, you need to have a general idea of some terminologies. Energy density refers to the amount of energy a battery can hold. Power density indicates how fast the energy in a battery can be delivered.

Lead-acid batteries have lower energy density but high power density so they can supply high current quickly.

Lithium ion forklift batteries are good on both counts, delivering a lot of energy when taking up little space. This improves runtime and performance.

2. Charging

Lead-acid batteries must be run down to 20% capacity before recharging to avoid shortening span life. Charging takes several hours (up to eight), and a cool-down time is required. But smart chargers can improve performance.

Lithium ion forklift batteries are opportunity charged meaning charging can happen at any time, opportunity charging is the ability to charge a forklift battery when the opportunity arises such as during a lunch break or in between assignments. Operators don’t need to run down the battery to guard against losing performance or shortening life. Li-ion batteries don’t need equalization charges.

3. Safety

Lead-acid batteries may produce acid spills and harmful fumes. Charging produces explosive gases, so you need a separate, well-ventilated charging room. Because the charging cycle and after-charging cool down can stretch to 16 hours, operators may have to change batteries to keep working, increasing the risk of acid spills.

Lithium ion forklift battery don’t present these problems since they are sealed against spills.As well as, they can be opportunity charged, there’s less demand for battery replacements.

4. Life

Battery longevity is defined as the number of discharge and recharge cycles a unit can provide.

Lead-acid batteries usually last about 4 years. At Spaceflight Power, the guaranty will be range from 1 year to 4 years.

Li-ion batteries can last 4 to 8 years, but depending on the usage and application.

5. Maintenance

Lead-acid batteries’ fluid levels need to be checked and topped up regularly with water. Automatic filling water systems are a good choice. Some facilities will need to maintain an inventory of back-up batteries to ensure uninterrupted operation.

Li-ion batteries need little maintenance since they don’t need topping up with water. Connectors, cables and wire may require repairs from time to time.

6. Recycling

Almost all materials in lead-acid batteries can be recycled.

Li-ion is a limited resource. It can only be found in a handful of remote regions of the world. There’s no shortage of Li-ion today, but if every lead-acid battery were replaced with li-ion, supplying may became an issue in the future


Lead-Acid battery: Heavy (70kg and 80kg per kWh of usable capacity)

Lithium ion forklift battery: Lighter (10kg and 15kg per kWh of usable capacity)



Lead-Acid battery: $$$

Li-iron battery: $$$$$$$$$$

Lithium ion forklift battery remain cost-prohibitive.  Li-ion batteries were priced in the range of four to five times the cost of lead-acid when calculated on a watt-per-hour basis.


Electric counterbalance lift trucks and lead-acid forklift batteries grew up together; they are brother technologies. Contemporary lift truck design depends on the weight of a traditional battery to provide the counterbalance to loads. No manufacturer has yet come up with a more efficient combination of power and essential counterbalance than a lead-acid battery.  

Li-ion batteries are more sophisticated. Every battery can connect to wifi or a cell network and transmit live data on state of charge, temperature, if plugs-ins were missed, etc. The Battery Management System built into each battery prevents overheating, overloading, excessive discharge, and other potential dangers.


How can I choose the best battery

There are variables to consider when choosing batteries:

Power and energyPack less energy but can dispatch it quicklyPack lots of power into small package
ChargingLong cycle and cool down; separate charging room; need tot be drained to 20%Opportunity charged
SafetyRequire careful handling to prevent acid spillsSealed against spills
MaintenanceRequire monitoring of fluid levelsLow or maintenance free
Life4 year on average4-8 years,depending on application
Price$$$,affordable$$$$$$$$$$,4-5 times than Lead-Acid battery

The lead-acid battery technology continues to improve. Battery handling equipment can drastically reduce the costs associated with traditional forklift batteries, making them even more affordable, long-lasting, and efficient than Li-ion battery, for that matter.

Lead-acid batteries continue to evolve alongside competing technologies. As long as lift truck manufacturers stick to traditional designs, the new generation of efficient, environmentally friendly lead-acid batteries will remain the most common source of motive power for electric forklifts.

For expert help with your next battery purchase or don’t know what to choose between lead acid or lithium ion forklift, contact Spaceflight Power. Our trained forklift professionals are ready to serve you.

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