Does the Future Belong to Lithium-ion Forklifts?

18th December 2020

Electric forklifts with lithium-ion batteries are becoming popular and for demanding applications and multi-shift operations, they may be best choice. For this reason, a wide selection of Hyster® lift trucks and warehouse equipment are already available equipped with lithium-ion batteries.

Fast charging forklifts

Due to fast charging times and the possibility for opportunity charging, lithium-ion batteries may be more efficient and powerful than classic lead-acid batteries. For example, lithium-ion batteries can be recharged during lunch breaks.

In many cases, this opportunity re-charging option removes the need for a second battery. Demanding applications in multi-shift operations no longer need to keep a replacement battery in stock.

Depending on the intended use, lithium-ion batteries for lift trucks may even be more cost-effective than lead-acid batteries in the long term and ultimately help to reduce total operating costs.

Long service life

Maintenance-intensive lead-acid batteries are often the weak point of a forklift truck. Especially the industrial trucks are subject to tough demands and used in multi-shift operations. However, today, a lithium-ion battery may last the life of two forklifts.

Compared to lead-acid batteries, the service life of a lithium-ion battery is also up to three times as long. In addition, companies with electric forklifts with lithium-ion batteries can save up to 30 percent of their energy costs.

New lithium-ion lift truck design

Since lithium-ion batteries no longer need to be replaced, this also opens up completely new possibilities for truck design. An example of this is the new Hyster® J3.0XNL forklift. This electric forklift is at the forefront of innovation, engineered around a fully integrated, space-saving lithium-ion battery.

Compared to traditional design, it has a large open workplace that offers the driver improved ergonomics, a spacious entry area, which makes it easier to get in and out of the truck, and a lower centre of gravity, which improves stability on long distances and during turning.

For our engineers, lithium-ion batteries offered the advantage of being able to optimize the chassis while improving acceleration and stability. The development of this zero-emissions truck is characterised above all by its high efficiency and low total cost of ownership.

Nine tonne lithium-ion lift truck

The performance of lithium-ion batteries is also reflected in the new Hyster® forklifts with fully integrated lithium-ion battery, which offer performance comparable to diesel lift trucks and a load capacity of seven to nine tons.

The high-voltage lithium-ion batteries of the Hyster® J7.0-9.0XNL series can also be fully charged in just 80 minutes with a 50 kW charger. This allows the trucks to be used for demanding applications over three shifts as it enables rapid intermediate charging during regular work breaks, so that no battery change is necessary.

The robust electric trucks are particularly suitable for companies in the paper, construction, wood, and metal industries as well as other types of heavy industry. They are characterised by a small turning radius, high acceleration, and are highly responsive.

Alternative to combustion engines

With this new forklift series, Hyster now offers a viable alternative to forklifts with combustion engines. Thanks to the combination of lithium-ion battery, high-voltage electric drive and multi-phase permanent magnet motor, the trucks are comparable to combustion engines in terms of productivity, operation, and autonomy.

When used and applied appropriately, this truck series offers a low total cost of ownership over its entire service life with all the operational and maintenance benefits of an electric truck, even with a low number of operating hours. Although the investment costs for the truck, including battery and charger, are higher than for a comparable truck with combustion engine, in many cases they already pay off after two years.

Experts predict that demand for efficient and powerful electric forklifts with lithium-ion batteries will rise significantly in the future. One reason is the new emission regulations, which has recently seen the introduction of Stage V engine requirements. In future, it is possible that the effort required to clean the exhaust gases of IC engine powered forklift trucks will increase disproportionately. For instance, in addition to exhaust gas purification systems, various cooling systems must also be installed in order to comply with the regulations.

Benefits for food and pharmaceutical industries

Companies with high hygiene standards, such as the food and pharmaceutical industries, also benefit from lithium-ion technology. In these industries, forklift trucks are mostly used in indoor areas that must not be contaminated. Unlike lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries do not contain any acid that could be spilled and do not generate any vapour, so they are particularly suitable for “clean” production and storage areas.

In addition, lithium-ion batteries for lift trucks do not require the same level of maintenance as their lead-acid counterparts. This helps reduce costs and avoid downtime.

Lithium-ion charging infrastructure

With good availability and accessible prices, it is expected that more applications will start to adopt lithium-ion power options. It is likely to be particularly appealing for new sites, as you don’t need to build a dedicated charging room, so can make significant space savings.

However, for high-performance lithium-ion forklifts, the charging infrastructure may need to be adapted. For example, older locations may need changes to the cabling to meet the power demand. Furthermore, it must be taken into account that lithium-ion batteries charge faster than lead-acid batteries and therefore more power is required overall.

New Hyster® lithium-ion pallet truck

Lithium-ion technology also has strengths in the warehouse. The latest example is the ultra-compact Hyster® PC1.5 pallet truck for loads up to 1.5 tons. The new lithium-ion battery powered pallet truck offers higher efficiency than a conventional hand pallet truck.

For companies currently using hand pallet trucks in the warehouse, switching to the new PC1.5 brings efficiency gains, without complex maintenance requirements. It is easy to service, with simple maintenance requirements, similar to a hand pallet truck. The new model features maintenance free components, such as a brushless drive motor and a lithium-ion battery.

Ready for lithium-ion?

Want to learn more about why Hyster® lift trucks with lithium-ion batteries could be the right choice for your application? Contact your local Hyster® Dealer who can analyse your fleet, operation, and budget, and provide advice on the best solutions.

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