Are Lithium-Ion Forklift Batteries Worth the Price? Two Surprising Stats

by Phil Hanford, on October 23, 2020 at 4:10 PM

Lithium-ion Forklift BatteriesIf you run a cold storage, multi-shift or manufacturing operation, or if your business operates on slim profit margins, this article is a must-read. If you’ve never considered lithium-ion batteries because of the cost, we’re going to share two stats that might change your mind.

Lithium-Ion Forklift Battery Pros and Cons

Are lithium-ion forklift batteries worth the extra cost? An increasing number of operations think so. 

In the manufacturing industry, China is #1. China produces more products than any other country in the world, which means they buy hundreds of thousands of forklifts every year, and more than one in four electric forklifts uses a lithium-ion battery.

Stateside, a major equipment manufacturer recently saved more than $1 million dollars per year by switching to lithium-ion batteries. After crunching the numbers, the company discovered they spent $4,800 per day:

  • Paying employees to swap batteries twice per shift
  • Creating 15 min of downtime with every swap (90 min per day)
  • Wasting money on electricity (lithium-ion batteries are 40 percent more energy-efficient)
Bonus Stat:

If you read the information above and thought, “Eh, I don’t run a manufacturing operation,” or “I only have a small fleet of forklifts,” here’s one more stat to consider:

An average facility spends 15 percent of its operating budget on energy costs. Whenever you can make that number go down, profits go up. Lithium-ion batteries use 30-50 percent less energy than lead-acid batteries, which quickly adds up to big savings. Here are a few more cost-saving benefits of lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-Ion Forklift Battery PROS

Increase Productivity - Lead-acid batteries cause your forklift to lose power as they discharge, but lithium forklift batteries don’t have this problem. Also, lithium-ion batteries don’t require maintenance, watering, or swapping. 

Try this simple experiment: ask your operator(s) to keep track of how much time they spend changing, charging and maintaining forklift batteries each week. You may discover, like the manufacturing company mentioned above, that you’re spending a good chunk of profits on those “cheaper” forklift batteries.

Reclaim Space in Your Facility - What else could you do with the area currently used for storing and charging extra forklift batteries?

Buy Fewer Batteries - Lithium-ion batteries last four times longer than standard forklift batteries. Picture your long-term operational budget and mentally highlight every “buy new forklift battery” line item. Now imagine deleting 80 percent of those line items. Feels good, right?

Reduced Risk - Because the battery cells are sealed shut, lithium-ion batteries don’t require maintenance. This means there’s no risk of acid spills. Your employees are safer, and your insurance company is happier.

Opportunity Charge Without Damage - Lithium-ion batteries can be topped up during 15-30 minute breaks throughout the day (known as opportunity charging). While it’s possible to opportunity charge a lead-acid battery, it shortens battery life.

Lithium-ion batteries can fully charge in as little as one hour. That's eight times faster than a lead-acid battery, and li-ion batteries don’t require cool downtime.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for one lithium-ion battery to power three shifts. They store three times more energy and are 30 percent more energy efficient.

Lithium-Ion Forklift Battery CONS

To be completely frank, there’s only one con to lithium-ion batteries, the price. You’ll pay, on average, $17,000-$20,000 per battery. But remember, lithium-ion batteries last four times longer, so you’ll buy forklift batteries less often.

What Applications Benefit Most from Lithium-ion Forklift Batteries?

Cold Storage/Freezer Applications - lead-acid batteries can’t handle the cold. Capacity can decrease up to 35 percent. Lithium-ion forklift batteries maintain their capacity in cold temps much better than lead-acid and can be fast-charged in cold temps, even inside freezers.

Multi-Shift Applications - Stop swapping and start saving. Multi-shift operations are the businesses that benefit most from lithium-ion batteries. We have customers who run their operation 24/7 with just one lithium-ion battery per truck. Their only complaint is: we should have switched sooner.

Tight margins - When you switch to lithium-ion forklift batteries, you’ll immediately reduce energy bills, reclaim real estate and improve productivity. Lithium-ion forklift batteries are 40 percent more energy efficient than lead-acid, and (in case you were wondering) 88 percent more efficient than diesel.

An increasing number of operations have done the math and come to the conclusion that lead-acid forklift batteries, though cheaper upfront, are more expensive to own. Lower energy bills and increased productivity are just two of the many money-saving reasons to switch to lithium-ion

- For multi-shift operations: lithium-ion batteries pay for themselves in just a few years.
- For single-shift operations, lithium-ion batteries typically pay for themselves in five years or less.

Converting your existing electric forklift(s) to lithium-ion batteries is easy. The retro-fit simply requires installing the new battery and adding the charge meter. 

Let us know what questions you have about lithium-ion forklift batteries. We’ll be happy to provide answers and help you decide if lithium-ion is the right choice for your business. Contact a forklift battery expert at Mid-Columbia Forklift and MidCo Material Handling online or by phone:

Auburn 253-854-5438
Pasco 509-547-7413
Wenatchee 509-663-9009
Yakima 509-457-5137

Further Reading
Guide to Forklift Battery Types
What Is Opportunity Charging and Is It Right For Your Electric Forklift
When to Repair Vs. Replace Your Forklift Battery 

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Topics:ForkliftForklift PartsForklift Batteries

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Material handling articles to help answer the questions you have about forklifts, aerial equipment, utility vehicles, warehouse optimization, and safety.

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