Electric Forklifts – Lead-Acid or Lithium-ion?

With the electrification of forklift truck fleets becoming more popular, which battery technology should you choose? Lead acid or Lithium ion?


Lead-acid remains the most commercially available option, no doubt it will remain a popular choice for years to come.  Lead-acid batteries are vastly less expensive than their Li-ion counterparts and they can be recycled, in fact thanks to the automotive industry globally more than 90% of lead-acid batteries are recycled.  However, in terms of charging lead-acid have a significantly lower life span than li-ion.  Lead-acid may only last around 1500 cycles where as Li-ion can last 10,000 plus.  Lead-acid batteries also degrade over time, as much as a third over their total lifespan.  Regular maintenance is also required for best performance, this can be easily done onsite by a competent person.


With Lithium-ion, more manufacturers are providing this type of battery technology in the marketplace.  Currently though they can cost up to four times that of lead-acid.  The clear advantage with Li-ion batteries though are that they have a much higher energy density to weight ratio.  Simply more capacity per kilo.


Lithium-ion batteries also have a much greater life span and can go further between charging.  Li-ion can also be charged faster reducing down time, also they can be opportunity charged during break times.  Lithium-ion batteries discharge very little when left for long periods where as lead-acid deplete over time.  As they are sealed units as opposed to wet cells like lead-acid there is no risk of operators coming into contact with hazardous chemicals.  Also, they are relatively maintenance free.  Lithium-ion can also be recycled though only a small portion of the materials used to make the cell can be economically extracted and reused.  The majority of the weight of a spent lead-acid battery can be recycled and reused to make more lead-acid batteries.


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