Forklift fleet management means considering more than just upfront costs. Forklift servicing needs, lifespan and energy efficiency are all important factors for optimizing your industrial handling operations.
Optimizing a handling fleet is a significant project for any business. There are many different factors to consider, from financial to operational. All fleet managers would like to minimize downtime, reduce accidents, cut down on energy or fuel needs, and meet operational needs with the given machines.
Lithium-ion batteries are powering up
While gas-powered forklifts will remain in the rotation in fleets for years to come, there have been recent developments with electric forklifts. The two primary types of electric forklifts are lead-acid battery-powered and lithium-ion battery-powered. Battery selection can have a considerable impact when it comes to fleet optimization. More than many fleet managers may think.
For work sites in Asia, it is still common for handling equipment to run on traditional lead-acid batteries. There is one main factor driving this decision: lithium-ion batteries are considerably more expensive. However, lithium-ion batteries have greatly improved in terms of capacity, lifespan and efficiency, which is more than making up for the cost.
Now, lithium-ion battery-powered forklifts are gaining more traction with industrial and logistics clients. If your fleet has not yet given a chance to lithium-ion powered forklifts, here are four reasons to consider doing so in place of lead-acid battery trucks.
1. A bigger punch in a smaller package
Compared to lead-acid batteries, which often need to be swapped out at some point during the workday, lithium-ion batteries can keep going. That is because lithium-ion batteries have a higher density of energy storage. The benefits of this are immediately apparent: less downtime during operations. No need to switch batteries means that no man-hours are lost when they are needed most.
Lithium-ion batteries also take up much less physical space than their lead-acid counterparts. Fleets running mostly lead-acid forklifts will need a dedicated room to handle recharging tasks to account for the risk of spills and fumes. No such risk exists for lithium-ion batteries; therefore, they take up less valuable floor space.
2. Quick charging and easy maintenance
Lithium-ion batteries can charge up to 8 times more quickly than lead-acid batteries and have the advantage of not needing a cool-down period. A lithium-ion battery can be fully charged within as little as an hour, meaning less operational downtime. Without the need to spend time waiting for recharging, fewer batteries need to be purchased to keep your fleet running. With more work happening on the floor, dramatically fewer battery changes, and a smaller number of batteries for purchase, lithium-ion batteries more than offset the higher price per battery.
Another benefit to lithium-ion batteries is that they require little to no daily maintenance. Unlike lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries require no ongoing maintenance and don’t have to be watered or monitored for acid spills and corrosion. This means more safety on-site and (yet again) more time on the floor freed up to focus on other tasks.
3. Much longer lifetimes, and no “memory effect”
The numbers speak for themselves. Lithium-ion batteries can deliver up to 6,000 charge cycles while traditional lead-acid batteries last, at the most, for 1,200 charge cycles.
However, the difference in value jumps out when you read the fine print – what counts as one charge cycle for the different battery types? For old-school lead-acid batteries, any charging, regardless of duration, counts as one charge. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve done an 8-hour overnight charge or a short charge during the lunchtime break. Each time you plug in is minus one for your company’s bottom line – the infamous “memory effect” of inefficient lead-acid batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, have no memory effect. If your staff does a partial charge of 25%, you will lose only what you’ve taken – 25% of one charge cycle. A 50% charge takes half of a charge cycle, and so on. In other words, not only do lithium-ion batteries deliver many more charge cycles, but they also ensure you get the full use of your battery’s lifetime. That’s simply not true for the old lead-acid options.
4. Efficiency and ecology
While it is true that lithium-ion batteries are a higher upfront investment, their lifetime and efficiency pay for themselves, particularly in situations requiring 24/7 battery operation. As we’ve already described, you can expect about four times the extended life cycle on a lithium-ion battery compared to lead-acid batteries. Longer lifecycle = lower carbon footprint from production and disposal.
Moreover, lithium-ion batteries do not use rare metals and are non-toxic, so both their production and post-consumption ecological impacts are lower than other batteries. And their CO2-free and fumeless charging cycles are not only ecologically friendly but also 30% more energy-efficient, which means a lower footprint and a lower bill.
Should every forklift fleet use lithium-ion forklifts?
Any serious fleet manager needs to understand and think about lithium-ion batteries. The truth is, lithium-ion-powered forklifts are game-changers for some sites but less useful for others. It all depends on operational needs.
For fleet managers, warehouse managers, or anyone else curious about integrating lithium-ion forklifts into their fleet, it is important to get a proper audit and consultation. Developing a strategic plan for when, where and how you might integrate lithium-ion trucks ensures minimal disruption to your operations while optimizing for efficiency.