- Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology offers a new kind of energy source for the next generation of forklifts.
- Li-ion battery technology provides unique benefits that are suitable for a wide range of customers and it will dominate the forklift battery industry for at least the next five years.
Fluctuating oil prices, trade war among nations, and rise in environmental concerns have encouraged both customers and companies to look for new sources of energy and find an alternative to traditional internal combustion engines. These are the prime reasons why the business of electric forklifts is booming and why forklift batteries have gained traction.
According to Allied Market Research, the global forklift battery market is expected to reach $7.4 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 7.04% from 2019 to 2026. The advent of fuel cell forklifts as an alternative to electric forklifts, the rapid expansion of warehouse spaces, and the growth of the manufacturing industry drive the market growth.
Growth of Li-ion batteries to dominate electric forklift industry
For years, lead-acid batteries have been a good source of power for electric forklifts, powering around 90% of the electric forklifts in operation. However, it has its limitations and a new player, Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology offered a new kind of energy source for the next generation of forklifts. Li-ion battery technology offers unique benefits that are suitable for a wide range of customers and it will dominate the forklift battery industry for at least the next five years.
Phoenix Motorcars, a subsidiary of SPI Energy Co, recently launched a new line of electric forklifts that use Li-ion batteries. For long lifecycle and high reliability, the company opted for Li-ion batteries. What’s more, the company has agreed to offer 10-year or 20,000-hour warranties for 2,500 kg and 2,000 kg configurations.
Similarly, Hangcha launched a new series of 2.0-3.5-ton electric forklift trucks with high voltage Li-ion batteries. This forklift is said to offer a greater performance of IC trucks in terms of both efficiency and productivity. Moreover, the new line of electric forklifts is said to offer zero emission, a low total cost of ownership, and reduced noise levels.
With the use of Li-ion batteries, the electric forklift will be suitable for long working hours and long driving distances. According to the company, the Li-ion batteries offer a high voltage of 309 V and a truck can be charged up to its full capacity in one hour and can be operational for 12 hours. Moreover, workers can charge the truck during regular work breaks and operate for the rest of day without the hassle of exchanging extra batteries. With the use of a Li-ion battery, the entire truck can save around 20% energy.
While the use of Li-ion batteries in forklifts has increased significantly, some companies have been experimenting with new kinds of battery combinations. Hyundai Construction Equipment has launched its next-generation, high-performance B-X electric forklift that has lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries. The electric forklift is designed for indoor warehouses and is launched to meet the rising needs of the logistics industry.
As LFP batteries can charge in a very short period and provide higher power output compared to lead-acid batteries, the company preferred to use LFP batteries in its new electric forklift. The LFP batteries are said to be suitable for long operating hours and handle high volume of goods. According to the company, it takes an hour for the LFP battery to charge completely with a battery output power of 51.2V, 500Ah for a 2.5-ton forklift, and 51.2V, 600 Ah for 3.0-3.5-ton forklifts. Moreover, consumers can easily remove the battery using hand pallets; most forklifts require a crane to remove their batteries.
The future of forklift batteries lies with Lithium-ion batteries
Improving existing forklift battery technology is always an aim of battery companies. While the use of Li-ion batteries in smartphones and computers is quite popular, their use in heavy-duty appliances such as forklifts is still in its initial stage. The use of Li-ion batteries offers greater run times and improves productivity far better than the existing alternatives. Moreover, consumers who opt to switch from lead-acid to Li-ion can save overhead expenses, fleet size, battery supply, and battery charging time.
The Covid-19 pandemic acted as a wake-up call for many warehouse companies. The rise in popularity of e-commerce and rise in investments in forklifts increased the demand for a better battery technology that can cope with long run times and heavy loads.
The Li-ion batteries have changed the way warehouses are operated and offer businesses a lucrative opportunity to boost productivity without compromising quality and workforce. Moreover, it helped in filling the gap between production and supply. During the pandemic, warehouse companies experienced a drastic drop in workload and had to implement shifts to curb the spread of the virus. However, the use of Li-ion batteries offers a brilliant solution and increased productivity with its shorter charging time and longer run time compared to lead-acid batteries. Thus, the demand for electric forklifts increased significantly compared to pneumatic forklifts.
On the other hand, downtime can reduce the overall productivity in a warehouse. However, Li-ion batteries increase efficiency due to their less need for maintenance and service. This enabled warehouse managers to monitor electric batteries and pre-empt any concerns. The advent of new technologies such as the cloud has enabled warehouse managers to remotely access the batteries and shut down a damaged forklift or increase the charge to reduce downtime associated with the faulty forklift.
In the future, e-commerce will penetrate every region across the globe, fuelling the need for warehouse forklifts. Simple changes such as using Li-ion-powered electric forklifts could go a long way for companies. By choosing a battery that offers cloud connectivity and BMS, warehouse managers can remotely oversee operations and offer reliable service to their customers.