What is it?
Lithium ion batteries are familiar to most of us. In fact, there is a good chance one is powering the laptop computer or cellphone you are using to read this. Their high energy density and light weight makes them perfect for these applications. Forklifts have continued to use old fashioned lead acid batteries because they are cheaper, and their weight is actually useful in counterbalance forklifts. However, as the cost of lithium ion batteries continues to fall, their benefits, including energy efficiency, are making them more and more attractive to forklift buyers.
How does it work?
Both lithium ion and lead acid batteries are used to convert electrical energy to chemical energy and back again. Lithium ion batteries do this more efficiently.
What are the most appropriate applications?
The best applications are warehouses or facilities that have significant forklift usage and operate two or three shifts per day.
What are the savings?
Charging of lead acid batteries is typically between 75% and 90% efficient, depending on the type of charger used. Lithium ion charging systems have an efficiency of 97% or higher. This means savings are between 7% and 22%.
What are the non-energy benefits?
Lithium ion batteries typically have a larger capacity, shorter charging time, and a longer life than lead acid batteries. These factors can improve productivity of workers, since less time is spent going to and from the charging room. The larger capacity and fast charging may also mean that fewer batteries are needed, since they can be ‘opportunity’ charged during breaks, rather than swapped out for a new battery in the charging room.
What is the cost?
Lithium ion batteries typically cost $17,000 to $20,000 each, which is more than double the cost of a lead acid battery.
What is the status/availability of the technology?
This technology is readily available through multiple vendors.
What kinds of incentives/programs are available?
Many utilities offer ‘electrification’ incentives when switching from diesel or propane forklifts to electric. Custom rebates may also be available for customers switching from lead acid to lithium ion batteries.