What To Expect When You Convert To Lithium-ion Forklift Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries revolutionized the personal electronics industry twenty years ago and now that wave of change has reached the material handling industry. Many pallet jacks and some electric forklifts now come standard with lithium-ion batteries.

Businesses in California that convert to lithium-ion-powered forklifts instantly gain an advantage over operations still using lead-acid batteries. Why? Because lithium-ion batteries significantly boost productivity while reducing downtime.

If you’re curious what it takes to swap your lead-acid forklift batteries for lithium-ion batteries, read on. 

For those unsure if switching to lithium-ion is a good idea, read Is a Lithium-Ion Forklift Battery Worth the Extra Cost? or ask us for a free evaluation.

Ready to Switch from Lead-Acid to Lithium-Ion Forklift Batteries?

In 2021, 90% of electric forklifts used lead-acid batteries. According to experts, that was likely the peak year for lead-acid.  An increasing number of businesses,  especially high-throughput and cold storage applications, choose the power of lithium-ion over lead-acid.

Due to customer demand, almost every model in Toyota’s electric forklift lineup can be ordered with a lithium-ion battery, including the recently updated 3-Wheel Forklift. The expert techs at Total Industries can also retrofit most electric forklifts to use lithium-ion.

Making the switch to lithium-ion is easier than you may realize. The technician simply:

  • Removes the lead-acid battery
  • Installs a new lithium-ion battery with the same voltage
  • Adds extra ballast and a charge meter

Presto chango, done

Once the new lithium-ion batteries are in, forklift operators won’t have to deal with the lag that occurs as lead-acid batteries discharge. They’ll also enjoy longer run times. As one customer put it, “Lithium-ion batteries give you the power and performance of propane, with the cost-saving benefits of electric.”

What To Expect When You Convert To Lithium-ion Forklift Batteries

Toyota’s lithium-ion batteries use a patented design that prevents the battery from losing voltage or performance. They have the highest energy density on the market (it’s the same cell chemistry used in electric cars) and have electronic controllers that ensure reliability and safety.  

Toyota Industrial Energy Solutions makes  24V, 36V 48V and 80v  lithium-ion forklift batteries with industry-leading capacity. We’re talkin’ a 1128 amp hour battery inside an 18-inch battery compartment. They also come with a best-in-class 6-year limited warranty.

What to Expect After You Convert to Lithium-Ion Forklift Batteries 

Operators Must Remember to Opportunity Charge
The most common mistake when converting from lead-acid to lithium-ion batteries is not preparing operators for the change in routine. Put simply: charging the forklift is easy; remembering to do it is the hard part. 

With lead-acid batteries, operators are used to charging batteries at the end of the shift.  Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand,  can be charged up during shift changes, bathroom and lunch breaks. This is known as opportunity charging. 

What To Expect When You Convert To Lithium-ion Forklift Batteries

With a little pre-planning, it’s easy to make a smooth transition. Here are a few action items:

  • Ask supervisors and operators for input on where to install chargers*
  • Establish guidelines for when a forklift should be charged vs. left unplugged
  • Print out Charge the Forklift reminders on brightly-colored paper and place them at eye-level near the time clock, break room, exits, etc.

* Lithium-ion chargers are smaller than their lead-acid counterparts. Toyota makes chargers small enough to be mounted on a wall, post or rack.

Associates Will Have More Free Time
Lithium-ion batteries are sealed and maintenance-free. They don’t need to be swapped at the end of a shift, watered or equalized. As a result, one or more of your associates will have a little extra time on their hands.

 ACTION ITEM: Evaluate how much time your team currently spends on battery changing and maintenance. Consider what you can have them do instead.

You’ll Have More Space
You won’t need a charging room, battery racks or watering station anymore. 

 ACTION ITEM: Decide what you’ll do with the extra space.

Expenses Will Drop
Converting some or all of your forklifts to lithium-ion is a big investment that delivers big returns including:

  • Lower Energy Bills – Lithium-ion batteries are 30% more energy efficient. 
  • Buying Fewer Batteries – Lithium-ion batteries last 2-4 times longer than lead-acid batteries and, in a multi-shift application, one lithium-ion battery can replace three lead-acid.

For multi-shift operations, lithium-ion batteries pay for themselves in 2-3 years. If you run a single-shift operation, it can take 4-5 years to recoup your investment.

BUT

Right now, California is offering cash incentives for businesses that use electric equipment. You can literally get paid for charging your equipment. So if you have an LP forklift and trade it in for a lithium-ion battery-powered forklift, your ROI will happen much faster. 

What To Expect When You Convert To Lithium-ion Forklift Batteries

 ACTION ITEMS: 

  • Consult your CFO (or inner CFO) about what you can do with the money you won’t spend on batteries and electric bills.
  • Contact Total Industries for more information on state incentives or for assistance calculating your ROI timeline.

You May Need Fewer Forklifts
Here’s something our competitors might not tell you: after converting your forklift fleet to lithium-ion, you might not need as many forklifts. Because lithium-ion batteries increase runtime, provide more consistent power and reduce downtime, you can get a lot more done. 

 ACTION ITEM:  After 12 months, evaluate your fleet needs. 

Is Lithium-Ion Right for You? Schedule a Free Consultation

Our goal at Total Industries is to help your business run more efficiently, not sell you equipment you don’t need. That’s why we offer free, zero-pressure electric forklift evaluations. One of our friendly material handling consultants can help you:

  • Decide if switching to lithium-ion makes financial sense
  • Estimate how long it will take to
  • Calculate the total cost of converting some or all of your fleet

For more information or to schedule an on-site evaluation, contact us online or by phone.

Bay Area (510) 675-0500
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091

Further Reading
Thin Plate Pure Lead TTPL Batteries Vs. Lithium-Ion
How to Extend the Life of Your Electric Forklift Battery
How a Lithium-Ion Forklift Battery works
Lithium-Ion Forklift Battery FAQs – Answered