Tom Burgess: You’ve got the power

Your Focus
- 3 Nov 2022 ( #1101 )
3 min read
Tom Burgess
Tom Burgess

Tom Burgess is UK Managing Director of Triathlon Battery Solutions, a world leader in virtually every type of battery technology. 

It’s said that lithium ion occupies 90% of the conversation about batteries for materials handling equipment but represents less than 10% of actual sales. 

How long that will last, nobody can say for sure, but, right now, there’s a serious discussion to be had regarding the pros and cons of different battery technologies, and that needs to include enhanced lead acid. 

The conversation is particularly timely as companies in every sector move away from diesel towards electric, but in doing so, buyers should be aware that each battery technology has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Before getting into the best options, it’s worth asking yourself a few core questions such as:

  • What is my present set-up and what are the reasons for changing it?
  • If I’m going to switch from diesel to electric, what are the benefits …  and the pitfalls?
  • How effective is my current maintenance regime (is it affecting battery life)? 
  • What’s the working environment? Will the truck be routinely working outdoors …  and in very low temperatures?
  • What is the capacity of our power supply? Can it support a switch to lithium ion?
Much to consider about battery choice
Much to consider about battery choice

Enhanced lead acid (QUASAR) 

A new type of battery has entered the market: enhanced lead acid. Using entirely new technology, it offers higher energy density for longer cycle life and 25% greater run-time in ambient temperatures than traditional lead acid batteries, making it ideal in energy-heavy or extended shift operations.

Already proving popular in applications where diesel once reigned supreme, enhanced lead acid offers powerful performance – with no power drop-off on ramps – and delivers prolonged shifts outdoors, even in extreme temperatures.

Occupying the same footprint as conventional lead acid, it also offers a significantly longer cycle life. 

Optimised for regenerative braking/opportunity charging with no degradation, it combines many of the benefits of lithium ion with those of traditional lead acid (while requiring significantly less infrastructure).

Standard lead acid

If you are already using flooded lead acid batteries and already have the necessary infrastructure in place, then there are plenty of reasons for sticking with what you’ve got. You’ll already know about the slow recharge times, etc. but may be able to continue living with that. It’s the lowest cost option of the three technologies being discussed here and charging efficiency can be improved by switching to intelligent chargers, which will also reduce energy bills. 

The downside to traditional lead acid is the need for regular and careful maintenance/topping-up. If that doesn’t happen, over time, day-to-day performance along with working life will be diminished.  

If good battery care can’t be guaranteed, then there are two alternative courses of action. The first – and more drastic - would involve a switch to lithium ion (which is significantly more expensive but requires little or no maintenance). The second (and cheaper) option is to outsource battery topping up and maintenance to an outside, specialist supplier.

Lithium ion

Although the initial purchase price is much higher than for standard lead acid, a lithium

ion battery will typically last five to six times longer and deliver 5,000 cycles (compared with 1,500 for standard lead acid).

Perhaps the single biggest attraction, though, is convenience. There’s no topping up, no acid, no gassing and no maintenance. There are no battery changes, no changing equipment, and, because there’s no charging area, greater space utilisation can be achieved.

Lithium ion batteries, like enhanced lead acid, can be rapidly recharged during lunch or tea breaks so trucks are almost always available. Even from 90% DOD (depth of discharge), lithium ion is good to go after a single, one-hour charge.

The main potential drawback is the large AC power draw which may make it unsuitable for some premises, and installation may well require a load power management system. What’s more, because of the high power draw, break times may need to be staggered to facilitate charging. Getting the specification right is crucial to meet the demands of the site at the right price.

Overall, my advice would be to talk to a supplier who can offer you all three options and can be impartial in the advice they give. The best battery for your application depends on a host of different factors, many of them specific to your circumstances. 





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