If you have been in the market for a new forklift, you may have heard the term “lithium-ion batteries” floating around. But what is a lithium-ion battery? A lithium-ion battery is a type of rechargeable battery that is commonly found in home and portable electronics, such as cell phones. These batteries are growing in popularity and have grown as a replacement for lead-acid batteries.

Both lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries can be found in forklifts, but what does that mean for your operations? Does having a different type of battery really make that much of a difference? There are benefits and drawbacks to both battery types in areas including charge time, safety, maintenance, and cost.

The most common type of lithium-ion battery used in forklifts is Lithium Iron Phosphate. Developed in 1996, this battery technology has been proven as a safe, reliable, and efficient solution.

LEAD ACID

Benefits

  • These batteries have a lower initial cost and can last a long time. Even with some abuse they can recover and still provide a long, useful life.
  • They can be used in light or heavy-duty applications.
  • And with over 140 years of development, they are reliable too.

Drawbacks

  • They have to be cycled down to 20% and then fully charged.
  • They also require an equalized charge every 5-10 cycles and they require watering. If you aren’t careful, you may end up overfilling or filling at the wrong time which may result in unadjusted battery acid.
  • These batteries can also get very hot and are in danger of overheating during charging.

LITHIUM-ION PHOSPHATE (LiFePO4)

Benefits

  • This is the most innovative battery option. It requires no watering or maintenance and has a very long life (10+ years).
  • Their ultra-fast “whenever charging,” allows you to plug in your equipment during any break times to keep the battery charged all day long with up to 18 hours in run time, without having to run it down to 20%.
  • Because of the chemistry of lithium-ion phosphate batteries, no heat is generated during use, meaning there is no risk of fire or explosion even under the most extreme conditions.
  • These batteries are also sustainable. There is no venting, gassing, or corrosion, and with no toxic or heavy metals, there are no disposal fees either – they are 100% recyclable.

Drawbacks

  • Lithium-ion batteries have a higher upfront cost. They also will require small changes in some operations to account for the charging difference.

In the end, the best battery for your operations depends solely on your operation's priorities. Want to learn more about lithium-ion or lead-acid batteries?

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