Such has been the recent advances in lead-acid batteries and their chargers that the threat posed to them by emerging, alternative fuels like hydrogen fuel cells, and other electric motive sources, including lithium-ion and ironphosphate, seems diminished, at least for the time being. And if anything the lead-acid electric trucks are encroaching on the less environmentally attractive diesel and LPG markets

Charles-New-GreyThanks to electric battery/ charger advances the clear advantage diesel and LPG once had over electric, i.e. their performance in all conditions, is no longer the case. The same goes for chargers.

The more intelligent ones deliver improved efficiency of up to 90%, compared with the commonly used 50 Hz charger that gives about 56%.

Buying the cheapest will likely mean that batteries will fail quicker and deliver shorter and shorter shifts, says Manbat. Nor is it any longer the case with electric that there is a perceived disadvantage with the need to keep replacement batteries for multishift operations.

On battery replacement, for example, the latest batteries are designed for opportunity charging that allows them to be topped up for short periods, such as routine breaks, or while other jobs are being done, to obtain what amounts to continuous vehicle availability. There would no longer be any need to change batteries or park trucks during a long charge cycle.

Advances in batteries and chargers have also meant costs have fallen because of longer battery life and service intervals, so much so that the relatively newcomer to the European forklift market, BYD, claims that its batteries, using iron-phosphate, will last as long as the truck, are maintenance-free, without need to change batteries for recharging, as the high voltage, three-phase technology allows intermediate charging in just one hour.

Chargers are also getting smarter with help from software that, claims charger specialist, Fronius, will show logistics managers their energy costs, carbon dioxide emissions and their longer battery interval service times. Fronius will measure customers’ energy needs over a month so that they can be confident that the calculations are correct to support their claim for far lower running costs. Even when buyers are not sure about choosing between lead-acid and the initially much more costly lithium-ion, Fronius will help them to make the best decisions. Although at least three times more costly than leadacid batteries, Li-ion is likely to be more efficient in 24/7 operations. One point when choosing leadacid batteries is to avoid buying on price alone because the cheapest battery is rarely the best value for money. Buying longer-lasting batteries means less frequent replacements, and the more reliable and energy-efficient the less will be the downtime and running cost. The application will also affect battery choice. In cold stores, for example, battery capacity can fall 1% per degree below 20 deg C. In this respect GNB claims its next generation Tensor battery is well-suited to cold stores because its performance improves on standard traction batteries by more than 50%.

The market in diesel and LPG/CNG is not standing still either. Doosan claims that the LPG market is decreasing globally as buyers switch to either cleaner diesel or electric power. The LPG protagonists might contest that, claiming that LPG is a cleaner burning fuel than diesel, has less carbon build up in engines, less oil contamination and lower overall engine wear. The diesel mix is also helping to improve its environmental credentials.

Howard Tenens, for example, has used blended diesel to shrink CO2 emissions by up to 50% on its trailer vehicles. This blend system can replace up to 55% diesel with CNG or LNG and up to 30% with LPG

The technology within motive power sources, like electric, is changing along with the emerging fuel alternatives that bring undoubted benefits but buyers must ensure that they keep themselves updated if they want to reap those benefits and not become less cost-efficient than their competitors.

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