Having been born in the mid-eighties, I suppose that would lump me into the category of a ‘Millennial’. Many would say we have been spoiled by advances in technology, medicine and communication, and I would have to agree. I think back to my father’s first cell phone – a bulky flip phone that had an overly-large battery pack which took hours to charge. For so many things while growing up, lead acid ran the show, literally.
Fast Forward a Few Decades
Enter the Lithium-ion battery. With the cost today nowhere near when they were first commercially introduced, you can now find lithium-ion batteries in cars, cell phones, tablets, laptops, lawn mowers, and most recently, lift trucks. While this technology will most likely never completely replace lead acid (or maybe it will), it’s important to look at some of the benefits of lithium-ion for the Material Handling Industry:
Anyone who has owned a lead acid forklift battery can tell you about how difficult it is to maintain in order to achieve the full life potential of the battery. If not properly charged, including equalizing, watered, and cleaned, you will undoubtedly see problems that limit the overall life. With lithium-ion, there is no maintenance, no watering, no specific charging requirements, and no PM schedule.
As the shift nears the end, operators get frustrated when the battery state of charge suddenly plummets from 60% to 30%, and they are stuck with a forklift that is underperforming. With lithium-ion, as long as the battery is not dead or under the cut-out limit, you will have full power without degradation, so it will not matter if your battery is 95% charged or 55% charged – the truck gets the same power, giving it the same performance.
Within the last 5-10 years, opportunity charging has become more popular with lead acid batteries. However, it can be costly and requires much operational discipline that are, in some cases, tough to maintain given changes in the business. With lithium, it wants to be opportunity charged! Anytime you are off the lift truck taking a break or having lunch, plug that baby in without harming the life of the battery and know it charges really fast.
- Warranty (specific to pallet jacks)
For any customer using walk behind electric jacks in their OTR trailers or on the docks of their warehouses, the number one issue is the unreliability of the power options available to them. Battery packs have a short warranty, a short life span, and can be costly to repair. On the contrary, the lithium pack for the pallet jacks comes with a 5-year warranty and expected lifecycle of up to 7-8 years. Wow, sign me up!!