The batteries used in forklifts aren’t exactly like the 12 volt variety found under the hood of a car. Though they operate on the same basic electro-chemical reaction, they’re much bigger and more expensive. Replacing one is also going to take some delivery time, so stretching their lifespans is vital to keeping operations running smoothly. The good news here is that steps can be taken to prolong them, and three actions stand out as especially helpful.
As lead acid batteries, forklift batteries rely on a chemical reaction where lead plates and sulfuric acid combine to generate electricity. When recharged, an electric current passes through the battery and separates the lead and sulfuric acid back into their original components. With more energy being drained from the battery between charges, 80% of total capacity is typically considered the cutoff point, more lead sulfate is formed on the lead plates. This excess amount of material is also allowed to sit there longer and harden. Known as sulfation, this collection of lead sulfate won’t completely separate back into its constituent parts. As a result, a bit of storage capacity is lost. Enough of these events will cause the battery to completely fail prematurely.
Water levels in lead-acid batteries need to be constantly monitored. Even routine chemical reactions within the battery can cause water loss. When water levels drop, the sulfuric acid becomes more concentrated and eats away at the lead plates, the dry upper plate sections are no longer involved in generating electricity, and internal resistance is created that produces overheating. It’s also important not to overfill the battery since it will get warm under normal usage. Warm water expands and spills over the top of the battery.
Slow and Cool
It’s tempting to use additional current to speed up the charging process, but this will shorten the battery’s lifespan. More juice than the battery can handle turns it into something of an electrical resistor and it overheats. The heat boils water out of the battery. It can also do physical damage by warping the lead plates. Of course, it’s also tempting to reduce standard charging times by getting brief charges in during lunch breaks and other non-work periods. Under the best of circumstances, a tiny amount of sulfation occurs. This is why lead-acid batteries don’t last forever. A forklift battery is designed to operate for a set number of charging cycles. This set number is reached quicker when the battery undergoes a lot of quick, partial charges that don’t allow the user to gain its maximum benefit.