Recent figures show that battery-electric forklifts accounted for over half of all new forklifts sold last year. However, many battery-electric forklift owners don't know how to correctly maintain their battery for maximum results.
The battery can be seen as the 'engine' of your forklift, and you would service an engine, so why not a battery? It's not as simple as just keeping it fully charged!
Here are five ways to get the most out of your battery-electric forklift. These relate to a conventional lead acid battery.
This will help avoid forklift downtime. Rather than having every unit run out of power at once, you can ensure only a few machines are offline at any given time. It's not recommended to charge your battery more than once a day, so plan ahead! Most batteries require at least 8 hours of charging. Cutting the charge cycle short will severely reduce the life of your battery.
Frequently discharging your battery beyond 80 per cent can cause damage to your forklift as it will run hotter, which can lead to premature failures and damage to components.
If, however, your forklift does run flat, you must give it a complete charge. Deep discharges will also lower the life expectancy of the battery. Inversely, don't over-charge a lightly discharged battery as this will damage it!
Be sure to check the water level in your batteries. Check with your local authority if the water supply is suitable to use in your battery. Topping up with water to the suggested levels will ensure the elements inside do not run dry. Without water, the elements will be ineffective, become brittle and break or fail. Only top up your battery after a full charge. Topping up before will cause the electrolyte to overflow. Keep the acid inside!
Each battery charge is called a cycle, and each battery has an approximate 1500 cycle lifetime. If there are 300 working days a year, each battery has a lifetime of about five years. Keeping a logbook like you would with an internal combustion engine, to document the age and charge cycles of each battery, will help you track how far along the batteries are in their life-cycle.
Make sure your chargers/plugs and battery tops are clean and free of foreign debris. Check the charger leads for any damage. Frequently inspect the physical condition of your batteries: if you notice white crystals forming on the plates or around the posts, you may be experiencing sulphation. Speak to a technician if you notice these signs, as they will be able to advise on preventative or corrective measures. Charging areas need to be well ventilated and have the necessary emergency equipment and procedures on hand as they can be prone to chemical, electrical and environmental risks.