Forklift Battery FAQ

What is a forklift battery?

A forklift battery actually has two functions:

  • The first function is to provide a power source to the forklift.
  • The second, and lesser known function, is to provide mass as a counterweight, which aids the forklift’s lifting capacity.

An industrial forklift battery is typically comprised of the following components:

  1. Battery case.The battery case houses the battery’s individual cells. The number of cells can range from six to 36, depending on the voltage. Voltage is usually 12, 24, 36 or 48 volts.
  2. Battery cells.The battery cells are essentially small, self-contained individual batteries made up of a series of tightly-stacked lead plates filled with sulfuric acid.
  3. Battery bars.The battery bars are large lead bars that link the individual cells, creating a complete circuit.
  4. Battery cables.These cables can vary in size from 4-gauge wire, which is roughly the diameter of a pencil, all the way up to 4/0 cable that can be more than an inch in diameter. Stout wiring is required in order to handle the high amperage some batteries can generate. Some batteries can have an amp hour rating of as much as 1,200 amps. A typical arc welder needs only 250-300 amps to melt and weld thick steel. You can see why large cables are critical to the operation.

What does a forklift battery cost?

Forklift batteries cost between $2,000 and $6,000 depending on specs and size. When selecting a battery, be sure to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the vehicle voltage or number of cells in the battery?
  2. Does the truck require an EE or EX battery?
  3. What is the compartment size of the truck?
  4. Is the truck compartment covered or does the battery require a cover?
  5. What kind of charging connector is used on the truck?
  6. What position on the battery do you wish the battery cables to come off the tray?

Can I buy a used forklift battery?

Used forklift batteries usually cost around $1,500 to $3,500. You can buy used industrial batteries through a local material handling or battery dealer. Used batteries go through rigorous testing and maintenance before being sold. This ensures the battery to work at maximum capacity by being cleaned, equalized and filled with fresh acid.

What is a forklift battery charger?

The industrial charger is responsible for charging the forklift battery as quickly as possible without shortening the battery’s lifespan due to overheating and overcharging. Before the advent of the current generation of forklift battery chargers, the operator was responsible for setting the desired voltage and amperage for charging the battery, thus opening the door for human error and damage. Today’s industrial charger contains a complex network of cards and sensors that effectively remove the human from the equation. Today, chargers have preset parameters that protect the battery from overcharging and damage. These preset parameters will actually stop charging and display error codes if there is a problem with the battery instead of pumping the battery full of power until it either boils over, or in worst case scenario, catches fire.

There is a myriad of choices as for industrial chargers from small portable chargers that plug into any wall socket, to large wall mounted units that require large amperage capacities with dedicated wiring. Current chargers allow the user to custom tune a specific charge cycle. This customization allows you to control everything from the amount of voltage, amperage, charging time, and even the fill rate over a given time span. These controls allow you greater flexibility in charging, as well as longer battery life and performance.

Modern industrial chargers might contain the following components:

  1. The charger case, which houses all of the internal components of the charger.
  2. Circuit cards, large capacitors, and very large transformers sometimes weighing 100 pounds each. Sometimes, as many as four transformers can be found in some chargers and diodes. These transformers are responsible for transforming AC electricity into DC electricity.
  3. A digital display shows the operator the vital statistics of the battery, the selected charge cycle, and its status.
  4. The charger cable, and heavy gauge cables, which transfer the high amp loads and voltage to the battery.

What does a forklift battery charger cost?

Forklift battery chargers’ range in cost from $500 for a portable charger that will plug into a standard 120-volt AC outlet, up to about $3,000 for a charger that must be wired into to the building’s electrical system by a licensed electrician. The price varies depending on specifics of the charger.

Can I buy a used forklift battery charger?

Used forklift battery chargers are available and are generally priced about 40-60 percent less than a new forklift battery charger.

Can I rent a forklift battery and charger?

Forklift batteries and chargers are available to rent together or separately. Prices depend on battery weight, battery specifications, and desired charger specs. When renting a forklift battery, see” What does a forklift battery charger cost?” earlier in this article.

When renting, or purchasing, a forklift battery charger, ask the following questions:

  1. What is the voltage of the battery that you want to charge? The voltage of your battery must match the charger voltage.
  2. What phase of electricity (1 PHS or 3 PHS)?
  3. What is the battery AH (amp hours) rating?
  4. What is the line voltage at the location at which the forklift battery charger will be used? The charger and line voltage must match.
  5. Will the battery charger be stored in a freezer or cold storage? Batteries should not be charged below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

What is a forklift battery changer?

A forklift battery changer is a mechanical device that assists in the safe removal and installation of electric forklift batteries, which typically weigh from 800 pounds to as much as 4,000 pounds.

Some forklift battery chargers are on wheels and are manually moved by the operator. Some changers are attached to a powered piece of equipment and driven by the operator. Lastly, some forklift battery chargers are fixed fixtures, meaning the forklift is driven up to the charger. The operator then extracts the battery, positions it to be charged in a holding rack, removes the charged battery from the holding rack, and then installs it in the forklift.

What is battery monitoring?

Battery monitoring is the act of monitoring an industrial battery. This can include monitoring water levels, amp hours, temperatures, electrolytes and voltage imbalances. There are two main ways to monitor a forklift battery.

Battery Monitoring Devices. It is important to note that the way batteries are charged and discharged affects your warehouse productivity. Batteries need to be charged and discharged properly in order to maintain their full available capacity. Improperly discharged batteries can lead to more battery replacements and the battery will not be able to run at full performance.

Raymond Handling Concepts Corporation offers battery monitoring device called iBattery. This device is attached to the truck and provides the following information for the operator:

  • Battery temperature, water levels, charge intervals and state of charge
  • Low water levels
  • Battery temperature conditions, weight and overcharges
  • Maintenance alerts
  • Undersized battery alerts

The information gathered by iBattery can be viewed on your computer, tablet or smart phone. Some of the benefits of using a battery monitoring include decreased cost of ownership, optimized efficiency, increased productivity and assurance with warranty requirements.

Battery Water Monitors. This is a device that monitors the battery’s water level (also known as its electrolyte) and alerts the operator know when the battery needs watering. An LED light is placed on top of the battery and will blink green when electrolyte levels are okay and blink red when the battery needs watering. LED light colors can differ, but these are their usual colors.

If batteries are watered too frequently, an electrolyte boil-over can occur. This reduces battery capacity by 3 percent each time electrolytes spill over. If batteries are watered infrequently, permanent damage can be done to both the lift truck and battery. Battery water monitors can eliminate scheduled weekly inspections since the monitor simply alerts the operator when the battery needs water.



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Related content: Forklift Battery FAQ: Maintenance and Care



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