Forklift Battery: A Comprehensive Guide for First-Time Buyers

Today, forklifts usually use a forklift battery to supply their motive power, because it is environmentally friendly.  Also, they can avoid dangerous fumes, such as carbon monoxide. Choosing the proper ones keeps your forklift in production during every shift. Also, charging properly makes a long life for your battery. 

However, many laypeople don’t realize how easy it is to make severe mistakes when dealing with a forklift battery. Luckily, the following information will be beneficial to you.

1. Forklift Battery Types

Here are three forklift battery types people use the most. Each one depends on the forklift’s use.

Render of an industrial forklift

(Render of an industrial forklift)

Lead-Acid

Operators use these forklift batteries the most, as they are easy to use. They are liquid-filled wet cell batteries in a big shape with a removable top. Through the chemical reaction of lead plates and sulfuric acid, it generates electricity. 

Also, with the right maintenance, they last over 5 years. Every battery manufacturer recommends users do regular maintenance. This ensures accurate battery voltage and electrolyte levels to grant top battery performance.

Lithium-Ion

Although expensive, lithium-ion batteries have a long list of benefits in comparison to others.  For example, one of the most popular chemistries they have is Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP),  which is more energy-dense than lead-acid.  
Instead of a removable top, the cells are sealed shut. Even there is no water maintenance, they can work properly.

Rechargeable electric forklift

(Rechargeable electric forklift)

Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) Forklift Batteries

Although this type of battery is not as common as lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries, AGM batteries benefit a lot. The glass mat inside the battery passes electrolytes between plates. By suspending electrolytes in this dry state, maintenance requirements decrease. This avoids any accidental acid spillage in case of a cracked battery case. 

Forklift battery ready for replacement

(Forklift battery ready for replacement)

On the downside, their performance lowers when charged improperly. Manufacturers recommend discharging the battery to no less than 50% on each use to ensure top performance.

2. Forklift Battery Price

Buying a forklift battery is an investment. When considering battery prices, you should consider the initial buyout price and the maintenance costs over a certain period. This makes the lithium-ion battery a better option.

Lead-acid batteries last about 5 hours with one single charge. However, it needs up to 8 hours to fully charge and an extra 8 hours to cool down. With proper maintenance, these will last up to 1500 charging cycles.

Several forklifts parked inline

(Several forklifts parked inline)

On the other hand, lithium-ion batteries last over 7 hours with a single-use. They only need up to 2 hours to charge completely and need no cool-down. In addition, with proper maintenance, lithium-ion batteries last up to 3000 cycles.

Lithium-ion forklift batteries are almost double the price of lead-acid ones. However, over the course of 5 years of use, using lithium-ion ones grants you savings of over $20K per battery. Just think of the big picture here, the more lithium-ion forklift batteries you own, the more savings you’ll have.

Man in forklift

(Man in forklift)

3. Forklift Battery Sizes

Whether they are big or small, light or heavy, forklift battery sizes vary depending on the vehicle they will supply the power to. 

24-volt forklift battery

It is perfect for anything small like electric walkie pallet jacks, end riders, walkie stackers, or center riders.

36-volt forklift battery

When it comes to narrow aisle forklifts or any other mid-sized vehicle, a 36-volt battery is a way to go. 

Industrial battery

(Industrial battery)

48-volt forklift battery

If you work with counterbalanced electric forklifts or any other large electric lifting vehicle, a 48-volt battery will do the trick.

80-volt forklift battery

They work with any extra-large, heavy-duty vehicle.

4. Forklift Battery’s Common Risks

As forklift batteries are bigger than regular car or truck batteries, the risks and consequences increase exponentially. However, lead-acid batteries present the most common risks.

Battery spilling warning signal

(Battery spilling warning signal)

Dangerous Gases

Lead-acid industrial batteries emit dangerous gases when overcharged. This includes hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, and sulfur dioxide. It’s important to ventilate the charging room at all times. Or at least,  install sensors to measure the concentration to avoid explosion.

Overheating

While charging, a lead-acid forklift battery raises its temperature after peaking charge for too long. It’s crucial to control the temperature of the charging station, the room, and the battery itself to prevent accidents.

Rechargeable forklift battery with the electric connector on top

(Rechargeable forklift battery with the electric connector on top)

Spills

Battery acid causes chemical burns, hindering workers’ overall job performance. The same thing happens when it comes to slips and falls. Lead-acid batteries need weekly watering. For this, it is recommended to have a chemical washing station on the premises to deal with battery acid spillage and burns. 

Old, Corroded Batteries

A new lead-acid forklift battery presents no safety hazard to operators. On the contrary, an old and corroded battery multiplies the risks.

Corrosion on battery cables

(Corrosion on battery cables)

Other risks of using any of these forklift batteries include physical injuries to workers. This includes lifting battery weight, moving, charging the batteries, and injuries if a battery falls on anyone. 

5. Forklift Battery Watering System 

As mentioned above, lead-acid batteries need constant, regular, and much-needed watering to function the right way while lithium-ion ones need no watering at all. 

Operator checking water levels on forklift battery

(Operator checking water levels on forklift battery)

To make it work, it’s crucial to only water the battery once it’s charged and completely cooled down. Also, be extremely cautious not to overfill it to avoid spillage. Leave space inside for the fluids to expand and use water that’s level 5 to 7pH in the acidity scale. In addition, it’s vital to water the forklift batteries every 9 or 10 charging cycles to avoid the exposition of the lead plates’ tops.

6. Forklift Battery Charging

Proper battery charging leads to extended battery life. Whether for lead-acid or lithium-ion, there are some factors you should consider before starting the charging cycle on your forklift battery.

Forklift batteries on charging station

(Forklift batteries on charging station)

Charging Time

While lead-acid batteries take 8 hours to charge up to 100%, lithium-ion ones take only 1 to 2 hours per charge cycle to do so.

Cool-Down Time

When it comes to cool-down time, lithium-ion batteries take the lead by far. Lead-acid batteries have to cool down for another 8 hours before using them. Lithium-ion forklift batteries don’t need cool-down time. They can be opportunity-charged and don’t need to be fully charged to use it.

Charging Method

The charging method is very different. Lead-acid batteries need to charge in a separate charging room where they remain until hitting 100%.On the other hand,  lithium-ion batteries charge by plugging the cord directly into the wall without removing it from the vehicle.

Forklift batteries charging on charging station

(Forklift batteries charging on charging station)

7. Forklift Battery Maintenance

Electric forklift batteries maintenance is easier than your think. Yet, it should be regular, consistent, and thoroughly done. There are some major tips to follow.

Check Water Levels

Check the electrolyte level every 5 to 10 charging cycles, and only once the battery is completely cool. In addition, be aware of white crystal formation on the plates. If this occurs, it’s time to call an experienced engineer to solve the issue.

Clean Batteries Regularly

Clean the top of the battery with warm water or battery cleaner to avoid corrosion.

(Battery operator handling a battery while using protective gear)

Use Protective Gear

Use protective gear when handling the battery. This includes face shields, protection glasses, and steel-toe shoes, among others. Also, remove the jewelry and all metallic accessories while handling battery acid.

8. Signs of Forklift Battery Repair or Replace

Some signs let users know when or if their forklift battery needs repair or replacement.e signs that let users know when or if their forklift batteries need repair or replacement. 

Sulfation or Corrosion

Corrosion appears as a sign of battery age, and sulfation shows due to over-or undercharging. But no matter what happens, it’s best to replace it.

Sulfated forklift battery

(Sulfated forklift battery)

Constant Charging

Constant charging translates to constant stopping while working, wasting your time and money overall.

Smoke while Using or Charging

If the battery releases smoke while charging or using, it means gasses inside our building and is an explosion hazard. 

Odd or Rotten Smell while Using

If an odd or rotten egg smell is present while using the forklift, it means the battery has corrosion inside it. 

Disgusted man covering his nose

(Disgusted man covering his nose)

Conclusion

Knowing how to choose the correct battery cell for your business’ needs can make or break your entire business plan. Hopefully, you now know how to do it right. If you are looking for any type of battery cable assembly for your forklift, contact us.

Hey, I am John, General manager of Cloom and OurPCB.

I am a responsible, intelligent and experienced business professional with an extensive background in the electronics industry.

Reach me at sales@wiringo.com to get a quote for your projects.

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