Your Complete Guide to Forklift Batteries
Forklift batteries can be tricky business if you’re not well versed in how they work, what the differences are between them, and the varying maintenance requirements they have.
Fortunately, in this article, we’ll be discussing the types of batteries different forklift brands most commonly use, and how to maintain specific kinds of batteries. We’ll also cover their lifespans and the consequences of falling behind with battery upkeep.
What is the Average Lifespan of a Forklift Battery?
New forklifts usually have a warranty of a few years on their batteries, which varies depending on the type of battery. This is because the components of certain types of batteries will naturally degrade faster than others.
Used forklifts will also include a warranty, but this will likely be less than you’d receive from a brand-new model. The average lifespan of a forklift battery is somewhere around 3-5 years with proper maintenance. So it’s important to stay on top of it to fulfil your forklift’s intended lifespan.
How do I Find out how to Maintain my Specific Battery?
New forklifts come with care manuals that will detail how to best maintain your specific battery make and model. But if you’re buying used, your supplier may provide this manual to you, or the instructions you need will likely easily be found online.
What Kind of Batteries Do Different Forklifts Use?
Usually, your forklift will use one of six different kinds of batteries, which each have their own maintenance requirements. These batteries are lithium-ion, Lithium-iron phosphate, lithium, lead-acid, traction and AMG.
Each boasts varying properties, and lifespans and demands to remain at full capacity.
But before we continue, we’d like to determine the difference between a lithium-ion and a lithium forklift battery.
What is the Difference Between Lithium, Lithium-Ion, and Lithium-Iron Phosphate Batteries?
Lithium-ion batteries are essentially lithium 2.0. Lithium batteries aren’t rechargeable, unlike lithium-ion batteries and lithium-iron-phosphate batteries. Lithium-iron phosphate batteries, on the other hand, are the king of lithium batteries and are usually only used for very heavy-duty machines.
Lithium-iron phosphate batteries are known for their impressive performance, longevity, and superior chemical composition.
Forklift Brands and Their Battery Types
At Trucks Direct, we stock new and used forklifts from a diverse range of brands and offer generous warranties on parts. So you can be sure you’ll get your money’s worth from your chosen forklift, whichever brand you decide on.
It is important to note with all forklift batteries that their expected lifespan can only be fulfilled with proper maintenance and will deteriorate faster without it.
Ausa forklifts use lithium-ion batteries, which last between 2-3 years.
Bendi forklifts use lead-acid batteries, a more traditional alternative, which last for 5 years at a time.
Caterpillar forklifts use traction batteries that last between 2-3 years.
Combilift forklifts use BSLBATT lithium batteries in particular, which endure 3000-5000 cycles before deterioration, which is the equivalent of over 7 years.
Crown uses an AMG battery, which is ideal for heavy-duty machines and can also last for up to 7 years.
Doosan uses lithium-ion batteries, which last for 2-3 years.
Flexi also uses lithium-ion batteries.
Hangcha is another that realises the power of lithium-ion.
Heli uses lithium batteries, which last for about 2-3 years.
Hoist uses lead-acid batteries, which can be expected to perform for 5 years.
Hyster uses lithium-ion batteries, with an expected lifespan of 2-3 years.
Jungheinrich uses lithium-iron phosphate batteries, which last for 5-10 years with correct upkeep.
Mitsubishi has made the switch from lead-acid batteries to lithium-ion batteries due to the latter’s shorter charging times, less demanding maintenance requirements, and lesser risk of operator misuse.
Nissan uses lithium-ion batteries.
Still also uses lithium-ion batteries.
Toyota, once again, uses lithium-ion batteries.
Aisle Master uses lithium batteries, which last 2-3 years.
- JCB Teletruk
JCB Teletruk uses lead-acid batteries, lasting for 5 years with correct maintenance.
Yale forklifts use lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries, boasting lifespans of 2-5 years.
It’s clear to see that the best-preferred type of forklift battery is lithium-ion. But why?
Why are Lithium-Ion Forklift Batteries Good?
Lithium-ion forklift batteries have far fewer maintenance requirements than other kinds of batteries. Unlike their alternatives, they don’t require watering, equalising or cleaning thanks to their sealed cells.
These beneficial properties reduce the time you spend servicing your forklift, as well as the indirect cost to your business through having a reduced fleet.
So, what exactly are the demands of lithium-ion battery maintenance?
How to: Lithium-Ion Battery Maintenance
Just because lithium-ion batteries demand less than other types of batteries doesn’t mean they’re maintenance-free. There are still things you should do regularly to make sure your lithium-ion battery is working at maximum capacity.
Do not leave batteries unused for extended periods
If you decide to place your forklift in storage, it is important to make sure the battery is still working. This is because lithium-ion batteries discharge gradually on their own when not in use.
You can check the charge status of your forklift using a battery monitoring device to get the most accurate result.
Over time, though, rechargeable forklift batteries will become naturally, irreversibly damaged between 300-500 charge cycles.
A charge cycle is when your forklift goes from fully charged to fully discharged and then fully charged again.
Observe the run-time to determine deterioration
When your battery progresses to the end of its life, the time it takes for the battery to run out of charge will gradually decrease. When your forklift is running for about 80% less than the time it was when you bought it, you’ll know it’s time to buy a new battery.
Don’t crush or puncture your battery.
Don’t short the external contacts.
Don’t expose the battery to temperatures of about 60°C.
Don’t expose the battery to excessive shock or vibration.
Don’t use a suspected damaged battery.
Lithium-ion battery maintenance: best practice
Charge the battery to 50% capacity at least once every six months.
When putting your forklift in storage, store the battery separately.
Only store in temperatures between 5°C and 20°C.
You’ll find the recommended maintenance instructions in the user manual for your specific battery.
These maintenance requirements are similar for all types of lithium batteries.
How to: Lead-Acid Battery Maintenance
Lead-acid battery maintenance is all about keeping the battery sufficiently watered. Neglecting to do so will cause a plethora of problems and significantly decrease the lifespan of your battery.
The main problem that occurs as a result of insufficient watering is sulfation. This is the killer of lead-acid batteries.
Essentially, the liquid in lead-acid forklift batteries, known as electrolyte, is composed of sulphuric acid and water. When it heats, some of the water evaporates and breaks down the dissipating hydrogen and oxygen gases present. This process is called electrolysis.
Electrolysis reduces the electrolyte levels in forklift batteries substantially over time. Exposing the battery cell plates, increasing the concentration of sulphuric acid, and wearing your battery away.
How to reverse electrolysis in forklift batteries
Use an indicator to detect whether the water levels in your forklift battery are too low. If this is the case, use distilled water to cover the battery plates after charging, and top-up the water as needed.
It is important to use distilled water, as the metals and minerals found in standard tap water will only cause your battery to deteriorate further. It is also essential to top-up after charging because the electrolyte will expand during charging and could cause overflow.
You should use a battery water filler system to ensure you don’t underfill or overfill your battery.
Why should you equalise forklift batteries?
The cells in lead-acid batteries can become unbalanced, preventing your battery from charging fully.
Furthermore, the capacity of the battery cells may fluctuate the longer you use your forklift.
To prevent this from happening, you could invest in an equalising charger. Although equalising charging and cooling takes longer, it’s worth it to extend battery life.
Why is it important to clean a lead-acid battery?
Dirty lead-acid batteries exacerbate the rate at which your forklift discharges and the cells inside the battery unbalance. So you must keep your battery clean. To do this, use a specialised battery steam cleaner.
How to: Traction Battery Maintenance
Traction batteries also require regular watering. Similarly to lead-acid batteries, use distilled water that sits anywhere from 5-7 on the pH scale.
Traction batteries require equalising to rebalance the electrolyte concentration, prevent separation of the acid and water, and remove sulfate crystals from the plates.
You can ensure the water levels are optimal by simply observing two or three cells to ensure they’re submerged. This will need to be done every 5-10 cycles.
Ensure your battery doesn’t ever exceed 45°C, as this will cause overheating and reduce the lifespan of your forklift battery.
Finally, charge your traction battery each time it falls below 30% and charge it fully before using it again. Interrupted charging cycles can also impact your battery’s long-term performance.
How to Maintain AMG Forklift Batteries
As is with all vehicle batteries, if you’re charging your forklift, make sure to recharge your battery regularly, and ensure there is enough ventilation to aid with temperature regulation. If you leave your battery discharged for too long, sulfation will occur.
You can reverse sulfation in AMG batteries by performing a desulfation charge. This is a 24-hour cycle in which the forklift charger sends a high-voltage, high-frequency, low-amperage pulse into the battery. You should do this with an AMG-specific charger, not a traditional petrol generator.
Avoid overcharging your AMG battery by using the voltage stated in the manufacturer’s instructions.
Time to Replace Your Forklift? Choose Trucks Direct
If your forklift requires more maintenance than you can handle or you’re looking for something new, see what we have in stock at Trucks Direct.
We stock new and used forklifts from a diverse range of brands with varying battery types. So you can match your forklift with your working environment.
See our range now and get the best prices on 0% finance, extended warranties, worldwide delivery, and a money-back guarantee.