Being smart with acquisition means looking beyond the initial price tag, especially when it comes to acquiring pallet jacks, forklifts, and other material handling equipment. Getting a true picture of the return-on-investment means digging into operating costs, uptime, and life cycle.
When looking at the power source, lead-acid has lower upfront costs compared to those of lithium-ion. But when moving through the equipment leasing cycle, these hidden costs of lead-acid begin to sneak in. Not only that, but the limits of lead-acid’s battery technologies in material handling equipment can be the not-so-obvious cause of diminished performance and efficiency in a warehouse setting.
6 downsides of lead-acid powered equipment
The more maintenance any system needs, the less time it can spend on the floor. Lead-acid battery systems, for example, require monthly watering to keep them functional and working at peak levels. When you add up these costs to maintain that lead-acid battery — materials, space, labor, time away from the production floor, human error — it's more difficult to see the advantage.
Narrow window to charge
To get the best performance from lead-acid batteries in a forklift, it’s important to train operators to use best practices. Bad charging habits can diminish performance and contribute to the downward spiral of a lead-acid battery:
- Putting the machine back in the charger too soon, either due to lack of training or simple opportunity charging (more on that later).
- Failure to turn off the machine after the shift.
- Allowing battery life to deplete below 20% before recharging.
- Not having an accurate battery life panel, so the machine never gets in the charger at the optimal time.
It’s not difficult to see how a warehouse manager would struggle to manage the fleet and production schedules to maintain that perfect balance of production and maximum battery life.
Opportunity charging diminishes battery life
Operators don’t want to work with the risk of their forklifts powering off without warning. When the battery life indicator of their lead-acid battery system can’t be accurate, the operator will compensate for that with opportunity charging. When they get into the habit of plugging in their machines during breaks, the extra charging cycles shorten the life and diminish battery performance, which only reinforces the habit.
Additional space requirements for charging
A typical charging station at a warehouse has all the machines charging at once, given the length of time lead-acid batteries require to reach a full charge. This means that a charging station would occupy a large footprint in a warehouse — which is no small thing, with square footage costs at a premium. Because Li-ion batteries are fast charging, warehouses can charge machines at different times of day, thereby reducing the space needed for charging stations.
Lack of insight on battery life
When it comes to remaining battery life, lead-acid batteries come with a serious blind spot. The battery life indicator in lead-acid batteries has a margin of error between 10% and 20%. This could lead to an unpleasant scenario for everyone involved, especially for operators, if the equipment stops working mid-shift.
Shortened cycle life, shelf life, and increased replacement
Now, consider the above effects and what they mean for replacement during a leasing period. Though upfront costs for lead-acid are less than Li-ion, lead-acid typically require replacement two to three times before the end of five years. Considering that a Li-ion forklift battery could last 5-7 years and would not need replacement during a 5-year period, it’s clear that Li-ion has a better total cost of ownership advantage.
Inventus Power PROTRXion battery: The intelligent Li-ion solution
In the drive for intelligent solutions, the Inventus Power PROTRXion Li-ion battery system has the technology to optimize uptime and further reduce the cost of ownership in battery-powered material handling equipment. Learn more about how these batteries are proving to outperform lead-acid.
PROTRXion batteries provide a “plug-and-play” solution, with no watering or other monthly maintenance required. Once it’s dropped into the battery holder, there is no need to remove it, maintain it, adjust it — it stays put until it reaches the end of its life.
Less time in the charger
PROTRXion batteries allow for fast charging, and opportunity charging doesn’t shorten its battery life. This means that an operator can top off the battery during their half-hour lunch break to get another hour’s worth of run time during the shift.
The Battery Management System (BMS) of PROTRXion batteries provides more than basic safety circuitry. Its patented software technology gives more data around things like temperature, amp hours of usage, state of charge, and state of health. All of these are essential for measuring performance and efficiency in warehouse operations. For example, the state of health indicator has a tighter tolerance of accuracy, giving the operator accurate information about the remaining run time of the machine, providing better overall support of job site functionality.
Stands up to extreme temperatures
PROTRXion batteries can operate within a wide range of environmental conditions, from minus 30 degrees Celsius if used with an optional heater and up to 50 degrees C. This is useful for applications that require refrigeration or operate within cold-temperature environments or outdoors.
Safer for operators
PROTRXion batteries respond to regenerative braking systems. If, for example, the machine is going down a slope while carrying a payload, regenerative braking converts kinetic energy and stores it, enhancing safety to the operator along with battery life.
Longer shelf life
The state of health indicator has a tighter tolerance of accuracy, giving the operator accurate information about the remaining run time of the machine, providing better overall support of job site functionality.