Nearly everything we use daily is powered by lithium-ion batteries – your smartphone, the laptop you are using to access this article, perhaps even the transportation you used today. Lithium ion batteries are considered the future for electric vehicles, just ask Elon Musk. Lithium-ion batteries are transforming nearly every industry that we can think of as they replace lead acid batteries. Warehouse operators, logistics professionals, and procurement offices can talk about the impact they have seen in powering their forklifts with lithium ion batteries rather than lead acid batteries. Ask them how lithium-ion batteries have allowed for a leaner and more efficient operation.
Since 1915, lead acid batteries have powered electric lift trucks in the materials handling market. For the following century, lead-acid remained the only choice for electrified material handling equipment applications. But not anymore. The Great Recession and advances in technology showed that the lead acid battery was antiquated, not cost-efficient, and not good for the environment. It was time the lead acid battery made way for the lithium-ion battery. The result has been the rapid transformation from lead acid batteries to lithium-ion batteries in the material handling world. Automated guided vehicles (AGVs), lift trucks across nearly all classes, and much more are now being powered by lithium ion.
Investing in lithium-ion batteries is not just for the present, but for the future of material handling. The benefits of lithium-ion batteries are: they deliver much lower energy consumption; higher productivity,; and simplification of material handling operations in an environmentally conscious and cost-efficient manner.
Lithium-ion batteries have also proven to be 30% more energy-efficient than lead-acid batteries, significantly reducing CO2 emissions as well as energy costs. The durability over time of Lithium-ion batteries compared to lead-acid batteries is massive. A lithium-ion battery has a lifecycle that is 3 to 4 times longer then the lead acid batteries that are used for warehousing and other operations. The overall cost savings from that alone makes them a sound investment for any company – economically and ecologically. This cost benefit for companies continues to grow as the lifecycle of lithium-ion batteries continue to increase. Another economic benefit is that the cost of lithium-ion batteries is decreasing. By 2021, it is expected that lithium-ion batteries will be 43% cheaper while lasting even longer before the need to recharge.
Lithium-ion battery technology is especially advantageous in multi-shift operations. As these batteries allow for opportunity charging, which means battery changing is no longer necessary, and neither are owning spare batteries or dedicated charging rooms. Lithium offers true opportunity and fast charging. Where lead-acid battery batteries struggle with high charging rates and warranties are compromised by this type of charging, lithium batteries by nature suffer no adverse effects. Trucks can be recharged quickly during breaks. Lithium-ion batteries also don’t require heavy maintenance, eventually reducing unnecessary downtime to a minimum and reducing manpower hours, which results in higher productivity in the operation. Additionally, there is no exposure to toxic lead and hazardous sulfuric acid during these maintenance tasks.
Lithium-ion batteries are far more robust than the old lead acid batteries. Lithium-ion batteries can operate and thrive in the most extreme temperature conditions without damage.
For all of these reasons it is no wonder lithium-ion batteries are the batteries of choice for material handling-and the future holds even more benefits and opportunities.
Adam Brown is the Director of Sales, Motive Power at Green Cubes Technology, a leading designer and manufacturer of lithium power systems. Additional information on him and Green Cubes Technology may be obtained at