Forklift Battery: Top Picks and Best Practices for Battery Charging Safety



forklift battery charging station

Electric forklifts have revolutionized the material handling industry with their eco-friendly and efficient performance. Unlike their internal combustion counterparts, electric forklifts run on rechargeable batteries, making them quieter, cleaner, and more cost-effective in the long run. Forklift batteries are the power source behind the efficient operation of electric forklifts. These batteries are designed to provide consistent and reliable energy, ensuring that forklifts can handle heavy lifting and long hours of operation in industrial settings.

Choosing the right forklift battery is crucial for maintaining productivity and safety. By utilizing advanced electric forklift battery technology, companies can achieve higher productivity levels while minimizing their environmental footprint. Understanding the role and maintenance of these batteries is essential for optimal forklift performance and safety. This article discusses the best picks for forklift batteries, the differences between lead acid battery vs lithium ion options, and essential safety practices for battery charging stations.


Forklift Battery Types: Lead Acid Battery vs Lithium Ion

When it comes to forklift batteries, two primary types dominate the market: lead acid and lithium ion. Each type has its unique features, advantages, and disadvantages, making the choice between them dependent on specific operational needs and preferences.

Lead Acid Battery

Lead acid batteries have been the traditional choice for many years. They are known for their reliability and lower initial cost. These batteries consist of lead plates submerged in sulfuric acid, generating energy through a chemical reaction. However, lead acid batteries require regular maintenance, including watering and equalizing charges, and they typically have a shorter lifespan compared to lithium ion batteries. They also require longer charging times and have a higher risk of spills and acid leaks, which pose battery hazards if not handled correctly.

Lithium Ion Battery

Lithium ion batteries, on the other hand, are relatively newer but have quickly gained popularity due to their efficiency and low maintenance requirements. These batteries offer a higher energy density, meaning they can provide more power while being lighter and more compact. They also have faster charging times and longer lifespans, which can lead to lower overall operational costs despite their higher initial price. Additionally, lithium ion batteries are more environmentally friendly and safer, with a lower risk of spills and no need for regular maintenance.

Choosing between a lead acid battery vs lithium ion depends on factors like budget, maintenance capabilities, and specific application requirements. Understanding these differences helps in selecting the right battery type for your forklifts, ensuring both efficiency and safety in operations.


Buying Considerations

When purchasing an electric forklift battery, consider the following factors to ensure you select the best option for your needs:

  • Battery Type: Decide between lead acid and lithium ion based on your operational requirements and budget.
  • Capacity: Ensure the battery has sufficient capacity (measured in ampere-hours) to meet your forklift's energy demands.
  • Lifespan: Consider the expected lifespan and total cost of ownership, factoring in replacement and maintenance costs.
  • Charging Time: Evaluate the charging time required and ensure it aligns with your operational schedule.
  • Maintenance Needs: Assess the maintenance requirements, including watering and equalizing charges for lead acid batteries.
  • Weight and Size: Ensure the battery's weight and dimensions are compatible with your forklift model.
  • Environmental Impact: Consider the environmental footprint and disposal requirements of the battery type.
  • Safety Features: Look for batteries with safety features to minimize risks, such as spill-proof designs and built-in monitoring systems.

Taking these factors into account will help you choose the right electric forklift battery that enhances efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness in your operations.


4 Best Forklift Battery Brands in the Market

BTB Industrial Battery

The BTB Industrial Battery line is designed for reliability and efficiency in forklifts, industrial machines, and construction equipment. They offer high-performance batteries engineered to meet the demanding power needs of industrial applications. Aside from their robust construction, they are also a sustainable choice, being 100% recyclable. The brand’s quick-ship capability ensures minimal downtime, making them an ideal solution for your industrial power needs. One of their top products is model 18-125-15, which features a 36-volt with 750 AH industrial battery suitable for most demanding environments.

Key Features:

  • Reliable Power: A swift solution for industrial power needs, ensuring efficient performance.
  • Sustainable Choice: 100% recyclable, promoting eco-friendly practices.
  • Versatile Powerhouse: Suitable for forklifts, industrial machines, and construction equipment.

Bulldog Battery

The Bulldog Battery brand offers a range of high-quality industrial batteries designed to fit various applications. Known for their durability and superior performance, Bulldog batteries come in both steel and rust-free plastic cases. Their batteries also possess unique formation complete with “discharge” and “equalization”. With strict quality control measures, Bulldog ensures each battery is built to last, providing enhanced capacity and life. Their Extended Series battery has a new and exclusive “Elite Power” design, researched and developed for extreme applications. Based upon a balance of electrolyte to active material, utilizing full positive and negative plates, it provides the highest capacity in a low maintenance battery design.

Key Features:

  • Durable Construction: Heavy inter-cell connectors and lead heads.
  • Enhanced Connection: All contact tips are sweat on, not crimped.
  • Corrosion Resistance: Special steel tray design for packing, maximizing life with a coating (piedmont epoxy) for better corrosion resistance.

Foxtron Forklift Battery

Foxtron Forklift Batteries are designed for long-lasting performance and efficiency. Manufactured with the highest quality materials under strict quality control, their batteries fit a wide range of applications. Built to spec and tailored to specific energy needs, Foxtron Forklift Batteries run longer, faster, and more efficiently. It features simple maintenance for lower cost of ownership, ensuring it will get the job done without breaking the bank. One of their featured products, the Foxtron ES Forklift Battery boasts of being the only 2-shot formed battery in the market. It is perfect for running longer shifts and requires less conditioning.

Key Features:

  • Extended Performance: Runs longer, faster, and more efficiently.
  • Two-Shot Formed Batteries: Unique manufacturing process for enhanced durability.
  • Reduced Conditioning: Requires less conditioning than other batteries.

Fullriver Battery

Fullriver offers premium deep cycle & starting batteries for a wide range of applications. Their products provide high capacity with the convenience of zero maintenance. They control the entire manufacturing process and ensure total quality control. Their Full Force (FF) series batteries are ideal for tough, dependable performance in material handling applications with its fast charging capability and flexible installation options. This dual-purpose AGM battery is known for its long lifespan and robust construction, and is built to handle deep discharges and resist vibration and shock.

Key Features:

  • Long Lifespan: Designed to be charged and recharged hundreds of times.
  • Robust Construction: Thick pure lead plates and over-the-partition welds for durability.
  • Maintenance-Free: Sealed and spill-proof so you can simply “Set it” and Forget it”

 

Forklift Battery Charging Station

A forklift battery charging station is a designated area equipped for safely charging forklift batteries. This station should be well-ventilated to prevent the accumulation of hazardous gases, such as hydrogen, emitted during the charging process. Proper signage, fire extinguishers, and emergency eyewash stations are essential safety features.

The station should also have appropriate electrical outlets and be free from flammable materials. Regular maintenance and inspection of charging equipment ensure safety and efficiency. Implementing these measures at a charging station minimizes risks and promotes a safe working environment for all personnel.

OSHA General Requirements for Battery Charging Stations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established specific guidelines to ensure safety at a forklift battery charging station so companies can maintain a safe and compliant environment, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries.

  1. Ventilation: Ensure adequate ventilation to prevent the buildup of explosive gases such as hydrogen.
  2. Fire Protection: Equip the charging station with fire protection equipment, including fire extinguishers.
  3. Emergency Eyewash and Shower: Provide an emergency eyewash station and a shower nearby to treat chemical splashes.
  4. Electrical Safety: Ensure electrical installations comply with the National Electrical Code for safe and proper connections.
  5. Training: Train workers involved in battery charging operations on proper handling and emergency procedures.
  6. Ignition Sources: Keep the charging area free from open flames, sparks, and other ignition sources.
  7. Maintenance: Regularly inspect and maintain charging equipment to ensure safety and efficiency.
  8. Signage: Post clear signage indicating the presence of the charging station and associated hazards.
  9. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Ensure workers use appropriate PPE, such as gloves and safety goggles, during battery handling and charging.
  10. Spill Containment: Implement spill containment measures to manage any potential acid leaks or spills.

By following these OSHA requirements, companies can create a safe and compliant forklift battery charging station environment, minimizing risks and enhancing workplace safety.

Battery Charging Hazards and Prevention

  • Hydrogen Gas Emission:
    • Hazard: Risk of explosion due to hydrogen gas accumulation.
    • Prevention: Ensure proper ventilation in the charging area to disperse gases.
  • Acid Spills:
    • Hazard: Chemical burns and environmental contamination.
    • Prevention: Use spill containment measures and provide PPE such as gloves and safety goggles.
  • Sulfuric Acid Splash:
    • Hazard: Severe chemical burns and eye injuries from sulfuric acid.
    • Prevention: Equip the charging area with emergency eyewash stations and showers; ensure workers wear protective clothing, face shields, and safety goggles.
  • Electrical Hazards:
    • Hazard: Risk of electric shock or fire.
    • Prevention: Ensure electrical connections comply with safety codes and regularly inspect charging equipment.
  • Overheating:
    • Hazard: Battery overheating can lead to fires or battery damage.
    • Prevention: Monitor charging cycles and use temperature-controlled charging systems.
  • Improper Handling:
    • Hazard: Injuries from improper lifting or handling of heavy batteries.
    • Prevention: Train employees on proper lifting techniques and use appropriate lifting equipment.
  • Fire Hazards:
    • Hazard: Risk of fire from sparks or ignition sources near charging stations.
    • Prevention: Keep the charging area free from flammable materials and ignition sources; have fire extinguishers readily available.
  • Exposure to Toxic Fumes:
    • Hazard: Inhalation of toxic fumes during charging.
    • Prevention: Ensure proper ventilation and use respirators if necessary.
  • Inadequate Maintenance:
    • Hazard: Malfunctioning equipment can lead to safety hazards.
    • Prevention: Regularly inspect and maintain all charging equipment and replace faulty components immediately.

Implementing these preventive measures helps mitigate battery hazards and ensures a safe environment for charging forklift batteries.


How to Charge an Electric Forklift Battery

1. Preparation:

  • Ensure the forklift is turned off and parked in a designated charging area.
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, safety goggles, and face shields.
  • Inspect the battery and charging equipment for any damage or defects.

2. Battery Removal (if necessary):

  • Disconnect the battery from the forklift using the appropriate disconnect tool.
  • Use a lifting device or hoist to remove the battery from the forklift, if required.
  • Place the battery on a secure, non-conductive surface or designated charging rack.

3. Battery Charging:

  • Connect the battery to the charger, ensuring the connectors are clean and free from corrosion.
  • Set the charger to the appropriate settings based on the battery type and manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Start the charging process and monitor it periodically to ensure proper functioning.
  • Avoid overcharging the battery by setting timers or using automatic shut-off features on the charger.

4. Battery Reinstallation:

  • Once the battery is fully charged, disconnect it from the charger.
  • Use a lifting device or hoist to reinstall the battery into the forklift.
  • Secure the battery in place and reconnect it to the forklift's electrical system.

5. Post-Charging Inspection:

  • Check the battery and charging equipment for any signs of damage or malfunction.
  • Ensure the battery's electrolyte levels are adequate, and add distilled water if necessary (for lead acid batteries).
  • Clean any spills or residue from the battery and surrounding area.

 

Battery Maintenance

Regular maintenance is crucial for extending the lifespan and ensuring the safety of your forklift battery.

  • Regular Inspections: Check the battery for any signs of damage, such as cracks or leaks.
  • Electrolyte Levels: For lead acid batteries, regularly check and maintain the electrolyte levels, topping up with distilled water as needed.
  • Clean Terminals: Clean the battery terminals to prevent corrosion and ensure strong electrical connections.
  • Equalize Charge: Periodically equalize the charge to balance the cells and optimize performance.
  • Follow Guidelines: Always adhere to the manufacturer's maintenance guidelines.
  • Professional Inspections: Schedule routine professional inspections to ensure the battery's condition and performance.
  • Safety Gear: Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when performing maintenance tasks.

Proper battery maintenance enhances efficiency, reduces downtime, and ensures safe operation in your facility.


Forklift Battery FAQs

Which battery is used in a forklift?

Forklifts typically use lead acid batteries or lithium ion batteries, depending on the specific needs and preferences of the operation.

How many batteries does a forklift use?

Most forklifts use a single large battery pack to power the vehicle.

How long can a forklift battery last?

A forklift battery can last anywhere from 5 to 7 years with proper maintenance and usage.

How many times can you charge a forklift battery?

A forklift battery can typically be charged about 1,500 times over its lifespan.

How to size a forklift battery?

To size a forklift battery, you need to consider the voltage and ampere-hour (Ah) rating required by the forklift, ensuring it matches the specifications provided by the manufacturer.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.

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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.