There are a number of different types of forklift batteries. Each of them has its own advantages and drawbacks, so it’s important to choose the right one for your warehouse operation.
Lead Acid Batteries (also referred to as wet cell) are the most traditional form of rechargeable forklift battery. They contain a combination of water and sulfuric acid that suspends electrolytes between two oppositely charged plates. They require regular maintenance, including checking fluid levels and regulating temperature with cool-down periods. They also require careful charging, as thermal runaway can occur if a battery is improperly charged. In general, lead acid batteries are cheaper to buy but need more care to operate efficiently. They need to be topped up with water on a regular basis, and they must be fully recharged after every discharge cycle to prevent sulfation.
Lithium-ion batteries are a more popular choice among material handling operations, especially cold storage facilities and multi-shift applications. These batteries are energy efficient, environmentally friendly and have an average life cycle of four times longer than their lead-acid counterparts. Traditionally, electric forklifts are powered by lead-acid batteries. These heavy, bulky units generate electricity through a chemical reaction of lead plates and sulfuric acid inside the battery. They require a dedicated charging space that ventilates and controls temperature, which can get extremely hot while the battery is being charged and produce harmful fumes. Additionally, they need to be fully charged before resuming operation. However, lithium-ion batteries charge much quicker than lead-acid ones. In fact, they can be recharged in less than an hour and are eight times faster than lead-acid batteries. This makes them a great choice for shift work because operators can charge their batteries during breaks throughout the day.
Designed for the most demanding heavy-duty applications, tubular plate batteries deliver even more power in the same size container. They provide more capacity and higher voltages for faster speeds and quicker lifts. In contrast to flat-plate batteries, tubular plates have a broader range of charge/discharge cycles. This makes them the ideal choice for environments that don’t have frequent power cuts. They are also able to perform longer run times than their flat-plate counterparts, which helps you avoid having to replace the battery often. To extend the life of your forklift battery, it is important to maintain it by charging it only when it dips below 30%. You should also clean the top of the battery regularly to avoid any build-up that may impact its functionality.
If your business has a forklift fleet, you may be able to benefit from using maintenance-free batteries. These are battery types that do not require any maintenance and can last longer than traditional lead acid batteries if they are cared for properly. Besides being a safety advantage, they also cost less than lead acid batteries. This can be a huge savings for any warehouse, especially if your fleet works around the clock. Another major reason businesses prefer maintenance-free batteries is that they are eco-friendly. They eliminate the need for harsh chemicals and hazardous materials that are often difficult to handle and dispose of.
The battery comprises a collection of positive and negative plates (electrodes) immersed in an acidic electrolyte solution. In a charge situation (when giving out energy), lead dioxide on the positive plate and sponge lead on the negative plate combine with dilute sulphuric acid in the electrolyte to produce a voltage. During discharge, the positive and negative plates release their excess energy as electrons flow through a conductor. The electrolyte then changes in specific gravity from 1.295 to 1.275 due to the sulfates that have been formed. The advantage of using gel-cell batteries is that they do not require watering and do not emit heavy fumes. This can make them ideal for warehouses, where ventilation is limited.
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