chaz4Forklift battery issues waste much money because while most operators are fully aware of exact fuel costs of running their transport fleet they have very little idea of the real costs of operating their materials handling requirements, claims battery systems supplier, Hoppecke. The solution is not to leave it to the forklift manufacturer to specify the battery/charger, changer, currently the norm, but to call in the battery experts to provide a free energy audit. In many cases the fork truck salesman is not fully up to date with cost saving technology or does not want to complicate a possible sales process.

The rewards for getting battery systems choice right are very substantial and can offer paybacks in well under two years as well as substantially reduce carbon footprint while enhancing safety. Despite the temptation in a recession to make cost the prime consideration when investing in a new battery set up, such an approach could be a serious mistake. The fact is, when an electric truck is purchased the actual cost to operate that truck over a five-year period, when electrical cost, plus battery maintenance and changing are considered, will exceed the cost of the truck.

To reduce costs, battery users should consider the following points:-

1) Consider the use of high frequency smart chargers with air circulation batteries which should reduce electrical costs by more than 30%.

2) Consider power for life contracts, removing maintenance and risk of warranty loss due to poor use and abuse.

3) Look at the full cost of the operation, including battery changes, to ensure batteries are charged, changed and operated to give maximum efficiency and reduced energy costs.

4) Consider the use of call forward systems which would reduce the requirements for 100% spare batteries and chargers in the system, reducing initial purchase cost.

5) Hoppecke offers a product called “Rapid Charge” which in many operations offers 24-hr access to electric trucks without the need for a spare battery.

Safety is uppermost in material handling applications, so much thought should be given to the battery changing operation. The points to consider here are: –

1) Is a fully powered battery changing system really the quickest and most effective way to change batteries? Often a mixture of powered changing for reach trucks and counter balanced machines, mixed with a manual system for powered pallet and low level order pickers, can offer the quickest change times, while still offering a large saving in area.

2) The biggest risk in using a powered changing system, especially above floor level, is access to batteries when the changer breaks down. It is, therefore, essential to choose the highest quality machine with a good back up service.

3) Allowing access to all of the companies’ drivers, both full time and temporary, can lead to an increase in machine damage and much queuing for battery change.

There has been much discussion over whether or not the lead acid battery will give way to other electrical batteries like nickel metal hydride and lithium. The challenge is to produce a power pack which not only offers the best operational solution but does so at a realistic cost, believes Hoppecke. Presently the prototype cost of buying MiMH is around 8 times that of lead acid with a life increase of 2-3 times. The prototype cost of lithium is 10 times for a life increase of 4-5 times that of lead acid. Until the costs are reduced to around 2-4 times with this life increase these combinations will not reflect a solution to everyday materials handling operations, claims Hoppecke. Lead acid is not yet ready to yield its throne.

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