Lithium-ion batteries may be on the verge of a breakthrough in the material handling market, as prices inch down and warehouse and DC managers seek lower-maintenance, higher-productivity solutions.
That may be about to change in 2018.
There was no shortage of l-i battery and forklift products introduced to the market last year, and the trend promises to continue as prices come down and warehouse and distribution center managers turn a willing ear to companies touting the advantages of lithium-ion technology. Such trends put the battery market—which has seen few technology revolutions in the last 100 years—on the verge of a major change, with some industry experts predicting that l-i will take a good portion of the lift truck market, and in particular, away from traditional lead-acid batteries, in the not-too-distant future.
“Cell prices [for lithium-ion] are dropping and are targeted to be around $100 per kilowatt hour in two to four years, and at that point, it will be less of a sticker shock to [buyers],” says Porter Harris, chief technology officer at Romeo Power Technologies, a maker of high-performance battery packs for a range of applications, including forklifts and other electric vehicles. The cost of l-i batteries has been the biggest barrier to adoption in material handling, Harris adds, and as that comes down on a broader scale, more companies will be interested in hearing the return on investment (ROI) side of the story. Still, Harris and others stop short of putting a number to the share of market l-i may capture in the short term.
“Lithium will have a significant share of the lift truck market [in] 2018 leading into 2019,” Harris says. “It really depends on how quick [manufacturers] are to incorporate the new technology into their vehicles, as it already makes business sense.”