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Your Focus: Maximise your forklift’s battery life

Monday, 23 Sep 2013 ( #635 )
Your Focus
Gary Hodge is National Battery Electric Product & Training Manager of MLA Holdings Pty Ltd

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Rising fuel prices and environmental concerns have encouraged many forklift owners to make the switch to electric trucks. While new battery-powered forklifts deliver substantial operational savings - especially in the current financial climate - these can be lost by poor battery care.

A typical forklift battery is worth up to 30% of a new truck's value and offers you approximately 6,000 working hours. It is your fuel for the next five years or more, providing you look after it according to the manufacturer's maintenance guidelines.

To help you maximise your forklift’s battery life, here are some battery care tips:

1) Schedule your workload around battery charging times:
This reduces downtime and the risk of accidents caused by drivers rushing to recharge when the battery is running low. Remember batteries should not be put on charge more than once a day.

2) Don't run below 20% battery capacity:
Deep discharging harms the battery and causes your forklift's electrical components to run hot, resulting in significant truck life damage, including possible motor failure and burned components. If that weren't enough, your truck won't be running its best at that level, either. At 80% discharge, your truck's traction and hydraulics will slow down, indicating that your battery is ready for changing. Mitsubishi electric forklifts have safety features that warn when damage could be caused.  If your battery does run flat, it will need a full, uninterrupted eight-hour charge cycle.

3) Fast charge with caution:
Fast charging might reduce downtime by as much as 10%, but it comes at a price. Any battery system can be fast charged, but the heat generated during the process can dramatically reduce the life of lead-acid batteries. Nickel and lithium batteries do suffer from this, but to a much lesser extent. Keep fast charging for emergencies.

4) Keep a close eye on maintenance:
One of the top causes of premature battery failure and loss is sulphation. This occurs naturally - as white sulphuric crystals attach to the lead plate - preventing the battery's ability to accept, hold and deliver a charge. This problem can be caused by overfilling and is most commonly experienced in warm environments. Check your battery for the development of white crystals as part of your daily checks. If you do spot the tell-tale signs of sulphation, request a visit from a service engineer who can advise on corrective measures.

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