More and more companies are finding it necessary to go to second or staggered shifts to meet demand and balance costs. However, most are coming to realize the impact of energy consumption on material handling costs. It is especially evident with the high cost of buying extra batteries and the safety concerns in changing batteries. Opportunity charging industrial batteries is becoming more commonplace, bringing increased productivity, operational savings and environmental advantages with reduced energy consumption. Safety aspects are getting weighed against the potential of accident costs and down time is always a concern. The technology is gaining greater acceptance and once a company makes the move, they wonder how they ever got along without it.
An operator goes on a lunch break and can plug in the truck to get energy in an opportunistic manner, hence the name “opportunity charging”. It literally saves you time and money keeping your vehicle running to the end of the day, rather than just the end of the shift. There is no need for the wasted space of a battery changing and the expense of purchasing battery handling equipment. There is no need for the added expense of purchase and maintaining a spare battery because there is less heat gain on your battery with opportunity charging.
Batteries are charged whenever power is available or between partial discharges rather than waiting for the battery to be completely discharged. It is used with batteries in cycle service, and in applications when energy is available only intermittently. Opportunity charging can be subject to wide variations in energy availability and wide variations in power levels and typically charges at a rate of 25-35 amps per 100 AH. Special control electronics are needed to protect the battery from over voltage.
If your company operates battery-powered trucks 1.5 shifts per day or more and/or perform at least one battery change-out per day, you should consider opportunity charging. The first step is to monitor the trucks/batteries to get an operational profile and see whether opportunity charging will work for you. You may have the power to change, by not having to change!