forklift battery

The Forklift Battery: Which Option Is Right For Your Business?

forklift battery

When it comes to choosing a forklift, there are some important decisions to make. You want a tool that will meet your lifting needs and have low running costs (including maintenance requirements). It obviously makes sense to first understand your needs, for example, lift height, load type and your load weight, and pick accordingly but another important consideration should be your choice of forklift battery.

Industrial batteries

Industrial batteries are usually traditional lead acid batteries, nickel cadmium (also known as NiCd) batteries or the more recent lithium ion batteries (sometimes abbreviated to Li-ion). These work in different ways and have different life expectancies, safety implications and charging requirements. Once you understand these it will be easier to make your choice. We look at different options and the implications your choice of forklift battery might have on your business.



Lead acid batteries

  • How they work
    Lead acid batteries have been around for a long time, have a good reputation for toughness and are still the most common forklift battery used in warehouses today. They generate electricity from the reaction between their battery plates (lead and lead oxide) and their electrolyte (sulfuric acid).
  • Forkift Battery charging
    Lead acid batteries require industrial chargers, which will allow you to set parameters to help you extend the life of your battery. So called, ‘opportunity charging’ is not recommended because it increases the number of charging cycles and limits the life of your battery. This may cause timing inconveniences and could lead to you increasing the size of your fleet.
  • Industrial battery safety
    Lead acid batteries need to be handled correctly in order to avoid injury. When charging these industrial batteries emit hydrogen (easy to ignite) and oxygen (combustion supporting) so they need to be kept well ventilated and away from possible sources of ignition. Regular visual inspections and watering to the manufacturer’s recommendations are vital. The sulfuric acid inside lead acid batteries can cause burns to the skin. They should always be stored in a separate area to nickel cadmium batteries.


lead acid batteries


Nickel cadmium batteries

  • How they work
    Nickel cadmium batteries generate electricity from the reaction between nickel oxide hydroxide and cadmium plates, which are suspended in a water-based alkali solution of potassium hydroxide (KOH).
  • Advantages
    When it comes to initial cost, nickel cadmium batteries take the middle ground between cheaper lead acid batteries and more expensive lithium ion batteries. If your lifting activities require high discharge rates, nickel cadmium batteries are a good option as they can achieve this without related loss of capacity or damage. Nickel cadmium batteries perform well when they are not in use, holding their charge and maintaining their voltage.
  • Disadvantages
    Although all industrial batteries require careful handling, nickel cadmium batteries require additional awareness because they are particularly toxic and considered to be environmentally unfriendly.
  • Forklift Battery charging
    Although nickel-cadmium batteries are charged with a constant current in the same way as lead acid and lithium ion batteries, their charging cycle is more complicated in the way it measures a full charge.
  • Industrial battery safety
    Nickel cadmium battery cells can overheat in certain temperatures, or when internal shorting occurs. This overheating can release potassium hydroxide mist and explosive hydrogen gas. NiCad batteries should never be stored in the same area as lead acid industrial batteries. If a nickel cadmium battery becomes ruptured, it can release potassium hydroxide, which is corrosive to the skin and can cause significant burns. Regular re-watering and visual inspections are extremely important.



Lithium ion batteries

  • How they work
    Lithium ion batteries are gaining popularity in the industrial battery market as more and more manufacturers recommend them over traditional lead acid batteries. Lithium ion batteries generate electricity via the movement of lithium ions between their positive lithium cobalt oxide electrodes and their negative graphite electrodes.
  • Advantages
    Lithium ion batteries are relatively light for the amount of power stored, particularly when compared to lead acid batteries. Their main advantage is the speed at which they can take a full charge. Whereas both lead acid and nickel cadmium batteries require careful and timely refilling with water, lithium ion batteries are maintenance-free, and have a longer life.
  • Disadvantages
    Lithium ion batteries are more expensive on initial purchase than either lead acid or nickel cadmium batteries. Although they are very efficient, they do currently present environmental issues because their recycling technologies are still under development.
  • Forklift Battery charging
    Thanks to the boom in electric transport, industrial battery-charging technology for lithium ion batteries is improving all the time. Lithium ion batteries are faster to charge than lead acid and nickel cadmium batteries but their main charging advantage is their charging flexibility, which means that they can be charged during convenient points in the working day.

  • Battery safety
    Lithium ion batteries are generally considered to be amongst the safest for staff to use. Because they do not require watering or topping up, they are fully sealed units and not prone to the types of corrosion or contamination that might lead to acid spills or gas leaks. Lithium ion batteries need to be kept completely dry as they carry a small risk of gas emission if they come into contact with water. Regular visual inspections and checks to the manufacturer’s recommendations are essential.


Regular maintenance

As with all elements of your forklift fleet, regular maintenance checks are vital to sustain your battery’s effectiveness and safety. An important part of your health and safety routine should include the training of all staff on basic safety and maintenance, including battery awareness.

Whatever your forklift training requirements, we can provide AITT (Association of Industrial Truck Trainers) accredited courses for your whole team from the warehouse floor up. Find out how we can help you meet your training needs today by getting in touch on 01438 222157 for a free, no-obligation quote.