The Forklift Boss Blog

Blog posts from Marshall Cromer, "The Forklift Boss". Follow us for information on forklift safety, available parts, & upcoming technologies shaping the future of material handling!
Forklift Boss Blog
  • Iron Phosphate vs. Lead-Acid: Where Electric Forklifts Are Going

    by Marshall Cromer, The Forklift Boss | Jul 30, 2019

    Seven years ago, I looked into a newer forklift manufacturer that only sold forklifts with an Iron Phosphate battery.

    This company had never built a forklift before. Yet in 2009, they built a factory to start building their own forklifts. Before that, the company had already built & sold electric buses, cars, and trucks across Europe and Asia for years. 

    They also controlled 50% of the world cellphone battery market, having started making lithium-ion batteries for Motorola in 1995.

    I had a hunch that those batteries would change the future of our industry. I spent months working a deal to bring these forklifts to Northern California. You know them by now—they're the BYD electrics.

    Now we're seeing movements in the electric forklift space. Movements that tell me my hunch was right.

    Lead-Acid vs. BYD Iron Phosphate

    Let me share what the future of electric forklifts will be. 

    Forklift Manufacturers Moving Away from Lead-Acid toward Lithium-Ion

    Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries have existed for years. Jungheinrich's electrics use them, for example. We're seeing other forklift manufacturers move away from lead-acid toward lithium-ion: CAT, Mitsubishi, Doosan, Linde, Hyster/Yale, Toyota, Unicarrier, Crown, Raymond, and others.

    Progress is slow, however. They're running into unfortunate snags:

    • The industry still uses 36- or 48-volt for normal forklifts, vs. 80-volt. With lower volts, you get fewer kilowatt-hours.
    • Only a few of these batteries have UL approval.
    • Lithium-ion trucks usually have a limited warranty (e.g., 3 years) vs. a BYD 10-year warranty.
    • In some cases, these manufacturers run into an unusual problem—the lithium-ion batteries are too light! A lithium-ion forklift battery weighs about 40-45% less than a lead-acid battery.

      That means they have to add weight, like steel or cement, in the battery case. As a result, the KWH capacity is not good enough. The forklift doesn't have the kilowatt-hours to run for 1 full shift, let alone 2-3 shifts our industry needs now.

    The Iron Phosphate Battery Wins Against Lead-Acid Every Time

    While the lithium-ion effort is great and I hope it brings more success, the fact is that these manufacturers have already been outflanked. They're trying to create the battery of tomorrow—while the battery of 5 years from now already exists.

    It's the Iron Phosphate Battery. These batteries beat everything else in the industry. They even beat lithium-ions, but let's compare them to lead-acid. That will show just how advanced the Iron Phosphate is.

    • With a lead-acid, you’re lucky to get one shift before it needs charging again. Iron Phosphates will go 2-3 shifts on one charge.
    • Charging a lead-acid battery? Better find another truck; it'll be stuck charging for 8+ hours. An Iron Phosphate goes from 0% to 100% in less than 90 minutes. If you had 3 shifts and charged during lunch, you can use the forklift 24/7.
    • An Iron Phosphate charger will "fast charge" in 1 to 1.5 hours with no damage to the battery. Doing a "fast charge" with a lead-acid battery ends up cooking it – reducing its life span to 2 years on average!
    • BYD warranties their Iron Phosphates for 10 years (or 20,000 hours). I've never seen a single lead-acid battery last near that long.
    • Lead-acid batteries hurt the environment just by existing. They're toxic to the Earth and to your workers. An Iron Phosphate has no chemicals, no acids, and no gassing. It blows my mind, but these batteries are 100% environmentally friendly!

    Here's a breakdown of the comparison. Good way to see where the future's heading.

    Business Considerations: Comparing Lead-Acid to Iron Phosphate

     

    LEAD-ACID BATTERY

    IRON PHOSPHATE BATTERY

    Charging Infrastructure

    Battery Rooms, Irrigation, Chargers

    Opportunity Charging

    Charging Time

    4-8 Hours

    1-1.5 Hours

    Battery Maintenance

    Battery Washing, Checks

    Zero

    Battery Life Span

    25% Failure Rate after 5 Years

    10+ Year Battery (World's longest battery warranty)

    Operational Factors

    Long Charge Time, Irrigating, Equalizing

    Zero

    Liability

    Gassing, Venting, Corrosion, High Disposal Costs

    Zero - Environmentally Safe Battery

    Fire Safety

    Can Catch Fire

    No Risk

    Dangerous Components

    Heavy Metals, Toxic Chemicals

    Zero

    Risks to Workers

    Burns, Fumes, Toxic Gas Exposure

    Zero

     

    One Shift on Toxic Batteries is No Longer Enough. Iron Phosphate is the Future.

    Our industry needs to increase running hours on electrics, across the board. One shift doesn't work anymore. We're in an age of 24-hour global distribution. Our forklifts have to measure up.

    Is the Iron Phosphate forklift battery ready to replace lead-acid batteries? Yes. It's ready now. And from what my customers tell me, they're ready for a change, too.

    If you'd like to try out an Iron Phosphate forklift, give us a call. We're happy to demo a BYD forklift for you.

    Until next month!

    Marshall Cromer, The Forklift Boss
    Cromer Material Handling 

     

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    CAT P7000 LPG Forklifts for SaleFor our Deal of the Month, we have two 2013 CAT P7000 forklifts. These are high-capacity trucks; each has a 7,000# capacity, and only about 4,300 hours on them.

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