Lead Acid vs. Lithium-Ion Batteries: Which One is Right for Your Forklift?

If you are a business owner or warehouse manager who relies on forklifts to run your business, the type of industrial battery you choose will have a crucial impact on the overall performance of your operations. Depending on which type of electric forklift battery your company chooses, you can save a lot of time and money in the long run. A battery is a significant investment; selecting the right one will help extend battery life and keep your forklift on every shift.

The forklift battery has two functions. The first one is to provide the forklift’s power source. The second is to provide weight as a counterweight to assist the lift truck’s lifting capacity. Installing an undersized battery can cause problems with the forklift stability.

Several technologies are available on the market to efficiently power battery-powered forklifts. The most popular are lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries. While there are other power options for forklifts, such as propane, diesel, or gas, most commercial forklifts use lead-acid or lithium-ion technology. Therefore, we will focus on these two types of traction batteries in our comparison.

Lithium-Ion vs. Lead Acid Battery Comparison

Lead-acid battery

Lead-acid technology was invented in 1859 by the French physicist Gaston Plante. This type of battery uses an electrolyte to generate energy due to a chemical reaction between lead plates and sulfuric acid. Lead-acid batteries require regular watering as they are prone to evaporation, which causes an increase in acid concentration. Therefore, periodically refilling them with distilled water is necessary to maintain the desired electrolyte composition to avoid them failing prematurely. Including work and process time to properly maintain lead-acid batteries often negates the benefits of a lower initial lead-acid purchase price.

Lithium battery

This technology is relatively new, especially in the driving force arena. Lithium batteries have a higher energy density than lead-acid, which allows them to be more efficient, especially in multi-shift operation. In addition, since the cells are tightly closed, they require no watering maintenance. Most lithium batteries have an internal battery management system that helps to keep the cells in balance. There is no need to replace the battery, eliminating the time for maintenance and additional costs. As a result, lithium batteries transform the material handling industry, offering increased performance and lower maintenance than lead-acid battery types.

Usage & Maintenance

Most companies measure battery life by the number of cycles. Overall, a well-maintained lead-acid battery should last for 1,000 to 1,500 cycles. A lithium battery usually lasts between 2,000 and 3,000 cycles. If you do multi-shift work, you must consider that lead-acid batteries take about 8 hours to charge and another 8 hours for cooling. You may need two or three lead-acid batteries per forklift, depending on your business scale. In addition to charging and cooling times, multi-shift operations should consider the labor of multiple battery changes and infrastructure and space costs. Lithium batteries only take 1 to 2 hours to charge and do not require a cool-down period – you can recharge it occasionally between shifts. Therefore, one lithium battery can power one forklift for all three shifts when adequately charged.

Conclusion: Which Battery is Best for Your Needs?

It is not always easy to reconcile high quality with an attractive price, but if you need reliable forklifts with efficient batteries, you can choose several options. The first is to buy devices with high-end lead-acid batteries that offer truly competitive performance and long life. The next group is devices with lithium-ion batteries. Despite their higher purchase price, they offer savings in operating costs, more extended performance, and improved environmental impact due to less energy usage and the possibility of recharging during off-peak hours.

It is essential to remember that buying better quality batteries (regardless of technology) is initially more expensive. Still, it translates to a lower failure rate and more extended trouble-free operation. In Asia Pacific Pte Ltd, we offer a wide range of forklifts suited to your operation’s needs, including the option to supply our clients with a lithium-ion battery fitted on the Aisle Masters forklift.

If you still have questions or need advice, please get in touch with us. We know it’s important to get an expert opinion when choosing a forklift battery, and with our experience in the industry, we can help you make the right choice!