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How to take care of your forklift truck battery

Written by Romain Lamy, 2018-08-02

tx3-batteryThere’s many reasons why forklift owners are moving towards electric trucks more and more - high fuel prices (which don’t show signs of falling), greater ecological awareness and improved technologies have made electric trucks an obvious choice for many.

A high-quality electric truck can last years, but downtime can occur if the battery is not properly maintained. Optimised battery life is always a good thing, and it’s essential if you want to quickly recover the initial investment you made when procuring the forklift, whether it’s new or used.

Even with new, high-tech trucks, the battery makes up a large part of the cost - usually around 30% - and faults with the battery can be expensive to repair. So by following the battery advice below, you should be able use your electric truck safety, efficiently, and cost-effectively.

Plan your day’s work around battery charging periods

When planning out the day, always schedule your battery charges, and keep to them. This reduces the number of unplanned stops, and improves safety - when a battery charge is scheduled, the driver will be less likely to perform hasty maneuvers when the battery is low. Speak to your supplier about your daily schedule - a good one like UniCarriers will be able to find the battery, charger, and even battery change system that suits your operation best. 

Don’t use the battery if it has less than 20% charge

A forklift battery isn’t like the battery in your smartphone. If it becomes completely discharged, damage can occur to some important components, and the motor may fail unexpectedly. When the battery reaches low charge levels, the truck’s drive and hydraulic systems can even slow down, seriously affecting your productivity.

You should make sure that your battery discharge indicator has the correct setting for your battery, and ask your supplier about how they can help - UniCarriers trucks, for example, have battery management systems that automatically avoids deep discharge and extends your battery's life.

Check the water level periodically

centrotherm-battery-change

Water is absolutely essential for the operation and optimum duration of the battery. During operation, the battery is charged and some of the battery acid is turned into water, which then dissociates into hydrogen and oxygen gas. This results in the water level dropping, which can expose the battery plates to air - this causes the active material on their surfaces to oxidise, making them dry and brittle, which can result in permanent damage.

Some suppliers like UniCarriers offer low-maintenance batteries, which only need to be checked once every 60 charges, or around every 8 weeks. A water level alarm is an optional extra on these batteries, which give a reminder in case you forget in the long period between inspections.For this reason, it’s vital you add distilled water to the battery periodically - normally every 5 or 10 charges. But don’t add too much water! If you go over the water level mark, it may spill, which can also damage the battery. And always remember to only add water after charging the battery, never before.

Beware of fast charge cycles

Reducing downtime by 10% with fast charging may sound attractive, but it can come at a price. Although all battery systems can be charged quickly, the heat generated during charging can really impact the life of lead batteries, commonly found in forklifts. Lithium and nickel batteries can also be affected, but not to the same extent. Fast charge cycles are perfect for emergency situations when high uptime is critical, but they shouldn’t be your go-to solution.

Your supplier will be able to advise you on fast charging cycles and ensure that you have the correct battery technology to take advantage of them.

battery-epm

Pay attention to maintenance

Sulphation is one of the main causes of premature battery damage. It occurs when white lead sulphate crystals form on the plates, which can lead to longer charging times, dramatically shorter battery life, and loss of power. This problem is often down to excess water, and usually occurs in warmer environments. Check daily for crystals on the battery - if you find signs of sulphation, ask a technician for advice on what steps you should take.

Take good care of your charger

The battery charger is one of the most important parts of your operation if you use electric trucks. High frequency chargers provide better efficiency and greater control over your battery charging, and are recommended by UniCarriers.

Chargers aren't cheap, and they can easily be damaged in a busy warehouse trying to keep high uptime.  Keep chargers away from moving forklifts and other equipment, and make sure cables and plugs are kept off the ground, so they do not get crushed under the wheels of your trucks.

Batteries and their maintenance can be a big cost, so following these tips can help you get the most out of your investment. However, they're far from the biggest cost associated with your truck. If you're interested in learning more about how to reduce these costs, click the button below to access our guide.

Keep learning more about how to reduce costs

Topics: Batteries

Romain Lamy

Group Product Manager Electric Counterbalance

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