If you’re a business owner or manager who depends on forklifts to operate their 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. Depending on which type of electric forklift battery a business chooses, a lot of time and money could be saved over the long run.
This guide will walk you through the different kinds of forklift batteries, their key differences, forklift battery price ranges, and how these battery options will impact the overall efficiency of your business’ daily operations.
Cell Balancing: The equalization of voltages and state of charge among the cells within a battery when they are at full charge. This is a practice that preserves the capacity of a battery pack with multiple cells.
Battery Capacity: How much current can be drawn from a battery. Capacity is measured in units of amp-hours (Ah).
Lead Acid Battery: A rechargeable type of battery that contains lead plates immersed in a sulfuric acid solution. The chemical reaction creates an electrical current used to power equipment.
Lithium-Ion Battery: A rechargeable type of battery that contains lithium ions which move through an electrolyte to create electricity to power equipment. Unlike lead acid batteries, the electrolyte is permanently sealed in a lithium-ion battery pack.
Thermal Runaway: When heat generated in a battery exceeds the amount of heat that is dissipated to its surroundings. In batteries, this occurs when a cell exceeds a specific high temperature which varies by chemical composition, because of thermal failure, mechanical failure, short circuiting, or electrochemical abuse.
Electric Forklift: A forklift that is powered by a battery, used for handling materials in warehouses, distribution centers, etc.
Battery Efficiency: The amount of energy that a battery delivers compared to the amount of energy that is put into it during charging. Factors that affect battery efficiency include charge current, resistance, battery temperature, and battery age.
Battery Discharge Rate: The amount of current divided by time it takes to discharge a battery. It is defined as the stable current in amperes (A) that is taken from a battery of specified capacity (Ah) over a period of time.
Battery Lifespan: How long a battery can operate during its life. Lifespan is measured by the number of charge and discharge cycles it has until the end of its life.
Battery Electrolyte Level: Battery electrolyte is the liquid substance that is found in lead acid batteries. The battery electrolyte is made up of water and sulfuric acid and is known to be highly corrosive. An important part of lead acid battery maintenance is checking the battery electrolyte levels to see if it needs to be topped off using distilled water. This process helps to prolong the lead acid battery’s life.
Counterbalance Forklift: These forklifts have substantial weight (or ballast) added to the rear of the forklift to keep it stable when lifting a heavy load. They can handle a capacity of 8,000 lbs. or more, making them essential when lifting heavy materials throughout a facility.
Narrow Aisle Forklift: Found in operations that want to maximize their storage space. This lift truck typically has a tighter turning radius.
Forklift Battery Size: Size can vary based on the type of equipment being used as well as how much voltage and capacity is needed.
Forklift Center of Gravity: The point on a forklift at which all the forklift’s weight is concentrated. It is important to distribute weight evenly to keep the forklift stable.
End Rider Forklift: End Riders have minimal lift capabilities (i.e. lifting a pallet off the ground) and are used to transport materials throughout a facility.
Walk Behind Pallet Jack: Designed to lift loads between 2,000 - 8,000 lbs. They are commonly found in delivery trucks for efficient loading and unloading of materials.
Battery Weight: A battery with a specific voltage & capacity will often be available in varying weights to meet the different forklift manufacturer’s requirements
Battery Charging Time: The amount of time required to fully charge a battery’s discharged cell.
Battery Voltage: The difference in electric potential between the positive and negative terminals of a battery.
Forklift Turning Radius: Depending on the type of forklift the turning radius can vary. This is a key feature that is part of the forklift design.
Opportunity Charging: The practice of using natural periods of downtime, like operator meal breaks, to charge the battery for short periods of time throughout the day. This allows operators the continuous use of the same battery throughout multiple shifts.
Overcharging Battery: Overcharging a battery is charging a battery more than its designed capacity. This can create unstable conditions inside the battery, increase pressure, and cause thermal runaway. This can be damaging to the battery, the equipment, and the operator.
Battery Runtime: The length of time a battery charge will last while the forklift is in use.
Industrial Battery: A battery designed for industrial equipment use. Typically, these batteries will be subjected to harsher use conditions than a battery designed for consumer use.
Fast Charging Battery: A battery capable of charging faster than conventional charging standards. Typically, a battery pack will use a charger that has the capability to speed up the battery charging process.
Forklift Battery Charger: Feeds an electric current through a battery for a specific period of time.
Constant Current Constant Voltage (CC CV): A charger regulates the amount of current until the battery reaches a set voltage. Once the battery reaches the set voltage, the current is reduced.
Sulfation: The build-up of lead sulfate on the surface of a lead acid battery. Sulfation happens when a battery is not maintained. If left unattended, lead sulfate build-up can cause the battery to stop working.
Battery Plates: Positive and negative plates that generate electricity. The individual cells of the battery fit into these plates to create a chemical reaction that helps produce voltage.
Equalization Charge: Overcharging the battery after a full charging cycle at a higher-than-normal voltage. This step is necessary help remove built-up sulfate and balance the voltage of each cell in lead acid batteries.
Battery Watering: An important part of lead acid battery maintenance which is necessary to keep the battery functioning. Watering a battery, helps keep the electrolyte levels from overflowing after being charged. This helps prevent acid-related and overheating damages. Gassing also causes water loss which is why battery watering is necessary.
Battery Corrosion: The electrochemical reaction between metal and its environment that causes the battery material to deteriorate. Lead acid battery lead grids often corrode in service, which is an issue only lead acid batteries have. This usually leads to battery failure.
Lead Acid Battery Maintenance: Lead acid batteries require regular maintenance due to electrolyte levels decreasing during the discharge process.
Maintenance Free Battery: Batteries that are sealed and don’t require service or attention to electrolyte levels. Lithium-ion battery packs are sealed meaning they do not require regular maintenance.
Deep Cycle Battery: A lead acid battery that can sustain power over a long period of time until 80% discharged. “Deep cycle” means the level of discharge in comparison to other lead acid batteries that cannot sustain the same energy over a period of time.
Charge Cycle: The charge cycle refers to the process of charging a battery to full capacity, and then discharging the battery. That complete process is referred to as the charge cycle.
Overfilled Battery: A lead acid battery that gets over watered. This can cause electrolytes to dilute and diminish battery performance.
Battery Watering System: System created to fill all battery cells at the same time.
Warehouse Ergonomics: Having a functional warehouse environment that can mitigate safety risks, optimize operations, and lower costs.
Warehouse Safety: Rules & behaviors to protect warehouse employees from injury.
Battery Electrolytes: A chemical medium that allows the flow of electrical charge between the cathode and anode.
Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs): Automated guided vehicles (AGV) are vehicles designed to perform material handling or load carrying without the use of an operator or driver. AGVs are guided by sensors, markers, tape, or wires in the facility and have a fixed navigational route.
Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs): Autonomous mobile robots (AMR) are more technologically advanced than AGVs. They move around the facility based on the most efficient path using sensors and cameras. AMRs can navigate around obstacles, adapt to its surroundings, and avoid anything in their way.
Battery Management System: The brain of the battery pack. It manages the operation of a battery pack. The BMS also allow users to monitor cells within a battery pack. It can provide the status and health of a battery.
Forklift Fleet Management: The best forklift fleet managers rely on a collection of data to see relevant performance information, such as state of charge, utilization, etc.
Industrial Battery Safety: Guidelines and precautions operators and technicians must take to ensure they are handling battery systems carefully.
Lead Acid Battery Off Gassing: A hazard of overcharging a battery. When a battery overcharges, the electrolyte solution can overheat cause hydrogen and oxygen gasses to form. This will increase pressure inside the battery leading to permanent damage.
Warehouse Efficiency: Maximizing space, promoting productivity, and streamlining operations are ways to create efficiency in warehouses.
Operational Efficiency: The ability of an organization to reduce waste in time, effort and materials while producing a high-quality product. This can be gained though different processes, resource utilization, inventory management, and many other things.
Forklift Battery Price: The forklift battery price isn’t the true price because you have the initial purchase price along with the operating costs and energy costs that go with the battery. Lead acid batteries have a lower upfront purchase price but in the long run have a higher cost of ownership due to the required maintenance and higher energy costs. In comparison, lithium-ion battery packs have a higher upfront price but no maintenance costs, and lower energy costs, since they are more energy efficient.
Battery Energy Efficiency: The amount of energy available to ‘do work’ relative to the amount of energy that’s put into the battery through the charger.
Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA): A program that funds grants that improve air quality by reducing the amount of diesel emissions produced.
Total Cost of Ownership: Total Cost of Ownership is a common method used to evaluate the entire cost over the lifecycle for a piece of equipment. In the case of forklift batteries, the Total Cost of Ownership includes the cost of maintenance and energy usage, in addition to the purchase price. It can also include the opportunity cost of something like a battery charging room, which might otherwise be used for production in a factory.
Unplanned Downtime: An unexpected shutdown of equipment. The cost of disruptions to production that come as a result of unplanned downtime often far exceed the costs associated with repairing the down equipment.
Labor Costs: A sum of all wages paid to employees. This cost can include employee benefits and payroll taxes paid by an employer.
Hidden Costs: Unseen expenses that come along with a purchase. One unseen cost of purchasing a lead acid battery are the energy costs.
Lost Productivity: The loss in revenue, production caused by the unavailability of an employee.