Phil Ireland from Hyster Europe discusses the latest advances in lithium-ion power for Hyster® lift trucks, and why common misconceptions could leave businesses missing out on the optimal solution.

In the past electric forklifts may have had a reputation for not being as ‘tough’ as their Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) counterparts. Though electric trucks thrive when matched with the right application, across the industry they can be typically seen to deliver 70% or less productivity compared to an equivalent ICE forklift. Until now.

In 2020, Hyster launched the J7.0-9.0XNL series, with fully integrated lithium-ion batteries. These zero-emissions electric lift trucks with 7-9 tonnes of lift capacity offer comparable performance to an ICE truck, alongside rapid opportunity charging, due to some key advances in technology and truck design. For the first time, you can take a lithium-ion forklift, and “drive it like a diesel”.

A common objection to electric lift trucks is the run time. It is a fact that batteries can only store so much energy, so previously operations would need to factor in the time, and infrastructure, for re-charging, making an ICE truck a simpler proposition. However, the capability for opportunity charging with a lithium-ion battery changes that.

Operations with two or three shift operations can easily top up the charge, preventing the need for battery exchange and a separate charging room. The battery is also maintenance free with no watering or equalising, unlike a lead-acid battery. A single shift, seven-day-a-week operation using an electric forklift with a lead acid battery would, by contrast, need to equalise every six cycles for 16 hours.

What’s more, the lithium-ion battery permits high levels of regenerative braking current to be absorbed, extending run time and improving efficiency. This mode of operation is only possible on an electric lift truck and delivers the added benefit of less wear and tear on the brakes, in turn reducing maintenance costs.

A key differentiator with the new Hyster® J7.0-9.0XNL series is the voltage. The 350V technology makes high power charging and intensive performance possible. There is no loss in performance from frequent charging or capacity loss at heavy usage.

The higher voltage system makes it possible to charge at up to 50kW, speeding up the process. From empty, the lithium-ion battery can achieve 100% charge in less than 80 minutes. Importantly, high-power charging also allows for a quick boost – for certain applications, one minute of charging may create up to four minutes of drivetime. And the high voltage has other benefits too.

Lower voltage batteries result in a higher current for the same level of power and can overheat in intensive work cycles. Conversely, the 350V battery supports high productivity (in tonnes per hour moved) and applications with both intense peaks and continuous heavy-duty usage.

In this case, an electric truck is absolutely tough enough. The Hyster® J7.0-9.0XNL series also features tough drivetrains, simple engineering, longer service intervals, and components built to last the lifetime of the truck, minimising truck maintenance needs.

There is also another important myth to address – that “electric trucks overheat all the time”. The Hyster® J7.0-9.0XNL lift trucks are not only designed with a high voltage (and therefore low current) system that greatly reduces heat development, but also incorporates specially designed water-cooled motors and drive controllers to prevent this, while increasing the overall efficiency of the truck. Battery monitoring systems are also included to keep a close eye on under and overcharging.

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