Lithium for motive power or lead? The choice between lithium or lead batteries for your motive power fleet is not always simple. The decision is based on many factors and ultimately, the customer must weigh the benefits of each solution and make the right choice for their organization. Lead may be the right fit for certain customer applications, and lithium might be better suited for others. When it comes to batteries, there is no “one size fits all” solution.
In a distribution center, where forklifts are being used in three shifts around the clock, efficiency is critical. There is no room for the downtime involved with charging, changing out, and maintaining batteries because those batteries must be in use 24 hours per day.
With lithium, only one battery is needed for each lift truck, and that battery stays in the lift truck all the time. The battery is charged during scheduled downtime, such as when the operator is taking a break or during a shift change. No additional downtime is required, which maximizes the daily runtime for each battery. A properly designed lithium battery is always ready to be used. Efficiency is a key factor when considering lithium for motive power applications.
Because a lithium battery is charged during already scheduled downtime, the act of charging the battery does not interrupt an operator’s daily workflow. This level of readiness equates to increased productivity. The ability to move more pallets in a warehouse each day can directly impact the bottom line for any business, which makes lithium an excellent choice in applications requiring continuous usage.
It is important to weigh the cost of the lithium battery against business goals. If a lift truck needs to be moving 24/7, it’s crucial to have a battery solution that will be able to keep up without unnecessary downtime.
For a lead battery, cycle life is a defined measurement dependent on the battery’s depth of discharge. That data point is not as easy to identify in a lithium battery, but lithium does provide over three times the cycle life provided by a lead battery. In addition, lithium cycle life rises exponentially with decreasing depth of discharge.
If a lithium battery is charged after using only 20 percent of its energy, that would represent a 20 percent depth of discharge. But if the battery is charged after using 80 percent, that is an 80 percent depth of discharge, which is what we at Stryten Energy responsibly define as a cycle for a lithium battery.
A unique feature found in lithium batteries is the battery management system (BMS). The BMS is an onboard computer that monitors activity inside the battery. Temperature, voltage, and currents are all monitored at the individual cell level. That data is available to service personnel to give them insight into battery performance. Data can be analyzed in real-time, and assistance can be dispatched on-site before the customer is even aware of a problem.
Data is gathered to analyze the efficiency of an operation. That level of communication allows for proactive versus reactive maintenance, as well as asset planning. The BMS helps the fleet manager to monitor and anticipate the life cycle of a battery, which allows the company to plan for future replacements.
Another consideration of lithium for motive power is safety. When a 3,000-pound battery is being removed from a forklift for charging, there is a significant risk of injury to the workers handling the change-out process. Because lithium batteries are not removed from the lift truck during charging, there is no injury risk.
Safety is also a consideration in battery maintenance. To work at full capacity and within warranty, lead batteries require watering, equalizing and cleaning. This space requires proper ventilation for potential gassing. Proper personal protective equipment is necessary to avoid contact with the corrosive material during cleaning. The lithium battery is virtually maintenance-free, which minimizes the risk of injury.
Lithium batteries offer additional benefits in terms of space. Because only one battery is needed for each forklift, there is no need to purchase and store multiple batteries on-site. Distribution centers can repurpose the space that might otherwise be occupied by racks of extra batteries and cumbersome charging equipment. In addition, personnel dedicated to performing battery swap-out can be re-deployed to more productive activities.
Making the Right Decision
While the upfront investment in lithium for motive power might be higher than a lead solution, ancillary savings could make lithium the better option in the long run. In some situations, lithium batteries might not make sense. The cost could be prohibitive, and the features might not be necessary.
The answer truly depends on a company’s goals and objectives. Lead batteries are suitable, and a wise economic choice, for over 75 percent of most motive power applications. But for large-scale operations running 24/7, lithium offers high efficiency, superior productivity, minimal downtime, and advanced analytical capabilities.
Stryten Energy will partner with you to find the best fit for your motive power fleet. Stryten can assess your various battery applications and make a data-driven recommendation for what battery technology is best for your application. We offer a portfolio of lead and lithium battery choices and intelligent chargers to provide the appropriate solution to meet your organization’s needs.