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Think lead acid and lithium-ion forklifts are basically the same? Think again

Lead acid lithium ion

In the fast-evolving world of warehouse management and operations, the question of which battery type to use in forklifts is more pressing than ever. Allan Spackman and Greg Wood from Linde weigh in on the debate and shed light on the differences, benefits, and challenges of both.

When it comes to powering forklifts, there are two main contenders: traditional lead acid and the increasingly popular lithium-ion. While on the surface they might seem interchangeable, digging deeper reveals stark contrasts between the two.

To Mix or Not to Mix: Fleet Composition

A question often arises around the transition to lithium-ion: Should a company switch fully, or opt for a mixed fleet? Linde Material Handling Australia’s Allan Spackman suggests that the decision largely hinges on logistical constraints.

“Some businesses blend lithium-ion with internal combustion due to limited charging time or lack of high-capacity charger infrastructure,” he says. “Yet, when lithium-ion is mixed with lead acid, operational challenges surface. Staff need to adapt their approach based on the machine type. However, with robust training and designated workgroups, mixed fleets can still run smoothly.”

Infrastructure & Transition Challenges

The shift to lithium-ion is not without its challenges, especially in terms of infrastructure. But Linde’s Greg Wood says the company is up for these challenges.

“At Linde, we offer diverse chargers and battery capacities, adapted for distinct runtimes and charging needs. Site studies determine the right fit. High-power chargers for rapid charges can pose issues. Every application varies.”

“The solution lies in seeking expert advice early,” Allan adds. “Assess your operation, and seek tailored solutions. OEMs might offer this, but we at Linde pride ourselves in assisting businesses through this transition.”

Retraining Operators

With a change in technology comes the need for retraining. “Whenever new machinery is introduced, we ensure operators are acquainted with the equipment and its protocols,” says Allan. The significant shift is in charging habits. While lead acid batteries typically drain before recharging, lithium-ion ones can plug in during any downtime. “Initially, this might pose challenges, but with training, it soon becomes habitual,” he adds.

The debate over lead acid versus lithium-ion is multifaceted.
The debate over lead acid versus lithium-ion is multifaceted.

“It’s mostly about proper education,” says Greg. “Lithium charging is more straightforward than lead acid, which emits potentially explosive hydrogen gas. Minor hiccups might arise initially, but once operators are accustomed, there’s rarely a mistake.”

Busting the Battery Myths

Allan aims to the hype surrounding supposedly advanced lead-acid products, viewed as an alternative to lithium-ion.

“While well-engineered, they neither outlast nor outperform lithium-ion,” he says. “Even with a battery management system, these lead acid batteries can face user-induced errors, shortening their lifespan. In contrast, lithium-ion’s management system thwarts actions that could diminish its longevity.”

Cost plays a significant role in battery choices. As Greg Wood points out: “Lithium-ion batteries may appear expensive initially. However, considering their lifespan, reduced upkeep, and CO2 benefits due to greater energy efficiency, the return on investment is swift. In cost per cycle analyses, lithium-ion invariably triumphs over lead-acid.”

Allan echoes this sentiment.

“The resistance to lithium-ion often stems from misconceptions rather than factual understanding. Once one grasps the myriad benefits of lithium-ion, it becomes the obvious preference.”

The Final Verdict

The debate over lead acid versus lithium-ion is multifaceted. The choice depends on specific operational needs, infrastructure, and cost considerations. While some might gravitate towards familiar options, understanding and leveraging the strengths of lithium-ion can pave the way for more efficient, sustainable, and cost-effective operations. And Linde is ready to go to meet your lithium-ion forklift needs.

For more information on Linde Material Handling, click here.

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