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With such a multitude of battery types available on the market, it can be difficult knowing whether you’re using the most cost-efficient option for your fleet.

Reducing carbon emissions whilst still maintaining fuel efficiency remains a major issue for many businesses worldwide and has become even more of a concern since the government announced to ban the sale of all new petrol and diesel vehicles by the year 2040.

Choosing an electric forklift truck over diesel or LPG will immediately reduce your carbon emissions as battery operated forklifts produce zero emissions, making them particularly suitable for daily warehouse use and large-scale operations.

Currently, there are three different types of battery technology on the market:

  1. Lead-acid
  2. Nickel Cadmium (NiCd)
  3. Lithium-ion (Li)

Choosing the right forklift battery to increase fuel efficiency and keep your costs down as well as offering many other benefits to your business.

Lead-acid batteries: the economical option

Lead-acid batteries are definitely the most economical power source for forklifts and are the most popular choice currently for counterbalance and reach trucks.

Despite being the most economical, lead-acid batteries have a comparatively low battery life compared to other options. If a lead-acid battery has been maintained and charged correctly, you can expect an average lifespan of 1,500 cycles. (A NiCd (Nickel Cadmium) battery under the same circumstances will last for approximately 8,000 cycles and A lithium-ion battery greatly surpasses this, delivering over 10,000 cycles during its lifespan)

There are also comparisons to make when it comes to battery degradation. Lithium-ion batteries don’t degrade at all, whereas NiCd batteries offer between 0-2% degradation, and lead-acid batteries can degrade by as much as 32% during the course of their lifetime.

Although lead-acid batteries typically degrade more and can’t achieve as many cycles as their NiCd and lithium-ion counterparts, they are far less costly to run. In fact, lead-acid batteries are up to four times less expensive than NiCd batteries, and up to seven times less expensive than lithium-ion batteries. This is a striking difference which has the potential to dramatically reduce fleet management costs.

Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) batteries: the reliable option

Probably the most durable and reliable option, industrial NiCd batteries are considerably larger than other battery types. Each cell consists of free-flowing liquid electrolyte, which is especially useful for applications demanding high discharge rates. NiCd batteries are able to perform under these conditions without becoming damaged or losing capacity.

Despite these benefits, NiCd batteries are much costlier than lead-acid batteries, and have a considerably lower energy capacity than lithium-ion batteries. It’s also worth noting that they are reasonably toxic, heavy and demand a lot of maintenance care, both in their use and recycling.

For businesses most concerned with lowering costs and improving fuel efficiency, NiCd batteries are unlikely to fit the bill. However, for material handling operations that are particularly intensive, NiCd batteries make for a highly durable and reliable option.

Lithium-ion (Li) batteries: the pollution-free option

The most expensive of the three, lithium-ion batteries are the most planet-friendly of options. There is still much work to be done before they become a viable option for the material handling industry based on cost, however, they do offer some strong benefits.

Lithium-ion batteries are completely maintenance free – they require no filling as they are gas free and they don’t pollute the atmosphere at all.

Although lithium-ion batteries have a considerably lower capacity than lead-acid, they can be ‘opportunity charged’—making them the perfect solution for businesses operating 24/7 who can’t afford extended downtime. They recharge much faster than alternative commercial options and it is likely that you will only ever need one battery per machine (instead of two to three lead-acid batteries per forklift) to maintain operations.

Whether it’s the environmental benefits of lithium-ion batteries, the reliability of NiCds, or the cost-effectiveness of lead-acid that piques your interest, assessing your business’ unique needs should be an integral aspect of the decision-making process when it comes to selecting your battery source.

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