LITHIUM ION TECHNOLOGY – WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Lithium-Ion Technology

The alarming energy crisis and the shift in world climate is a clear indicator as to why we must all try our best to switch to cleaner energy sources. As the future of energy storage solution lithium-ion battery technology provides sustainable changes in transforming our way to store and consume energy.

Lithium-ion batteries have been widely adapted in the production of electric vehicles. In the material handling market, Li-Ion batteries became popular mainly with entry level pallet trucks due to the introduction of the EPT 12EZ from EP Equipment in 2016. Since then, entry level pallet trucks are mainly produced with Li-Ion batteries, though the technology used can differ quite significantly, leading to different characteristics and safety standards. Larger equipment has been available with Li-Ion options for several years already, but at the same time it was always extremely expensive and payed off mainly in heavy duty, 3 shift applications. With the development of new trucks, this obstacle can be eliminated and all categories of material handling products can be powered by Li-Ion technology in the near future, according to studies carried out by EP Equipment.

 

 

Lithium VS Lead Acid Batteries Overview

Electric powered material handling products have been increasing rapidly in market shares over the past 10 years. A large factor to this growth is E-Commerce and the growth of warehousing vs. decentralised storage. In the past all of these trucks have been powered by some sort of Lead acid battery, Gel Battery or AGM Battery. In the recent years, Li-Ion became more and more cost efficient and played a stronger role in the development and purchase strategy of manufacturers and customers.

With a difference in chemistry between those two battery types comes differences in performance and cost. While both lithium-ion and lead acid battery options can be effective solutions, here’s how they stack up when compared head to head in key categories:

Why Li-Ion Instead Of Lead Acid?

Depending on the type of material handling product, the decision about the battery technology can be easy or a little bit harder. When you look at the prices of pallet trucks nowadays, it seems logical to go for a Li-Ion version even when comparing ride-on pallet trucks, as the cost price is comparable and adds tremendous advantages. When thinking about the purchase of reach trucks and forklift trucks, the price gap for most manufacturers is still an obstacle for many customers. In that case only manufacturers with Li-Ion customised trucks can offer a real alternative as their production costs can match the price of lead acid trucks.

When thinking about the purchase of a Li-Ion battery, the following features really stand out:

Longer lifespan

Lithium-ion batteries have a life cycle of 3000 or more compared to just 500-1000 cycles in lead acid. Lithium-ion batteries generally last for several times the number of cycles as lead acid batteries, leading to a longer and more effective lifespan for lithium-ion products. Cycles are also counted in percentage of charge rather than one cycle every time you connect the battery to the charger. This means a 10% charge is 1/10 of a cycle with a Li-Ion battery, while a 10% charge at a lead acid battery is 1 full cycle.

Opportunity charging

While lead acid batteries always need a full charge cycle of 8-12 hours to keep the batteries chemistry in balance, LI-Ion batteries really like opportunity charging. They can be plugged in to the wall and charged for 10 Minutes during a break. This offers a unique way to work your shifts and reduce the overall Ah carried around in the truck.

Lighter weight

Lithium-ion batteries offer high power density which cause lithium-ion batteries to be relatively small and light. A lithium battery is only one-third of the weight of a lead-acid battery. This offers manufacturers like EP the opportunity to develop the trucks with higher standards of ergonomics, bigger legroom and better performing trucks due to the smaller size and weight of the batteries.

Higher efficiency

Most lithium-ion batteries are 95 percent efficient or more, meaning that 95 percent or more of the energy stored in a lithium-ion battery is actually able to be used. Lead acid batteries see efficiencies closer to 80/ 85 percent.

Faster charging

Higher efficiency batteries charge faster, improved efficiency means a higher effective battery capacity. Lithium batteries takes 2-3 hours to charge while lead-acid needs at least 8 hours. Lithium batteries high effective capacity reduces downtime in operations.

More environmental-friendly

From an ecological point of view, it‘s non-toxic and harmless. Lithium batteries emits no gas so it is a much cleaner technology and is safer for the environment than lead-acid.

Zero maintenance

While lead-acid batteries need special maintenance, Lithium batteries don’t require active maintenance to extend their service life. That largely eliminates the costs of battery up keeping, maintenance and infrastructure.

Less Expensive

It’s important to compare energy prices to ensure you’re getting a great deal for your Lead acid battery products and Li-ion ones.

In a nutshell, lead acid batteries may be less expensive from procurement perspectives, however, a lithium battery solution may contribute to a more cost-efficient warehouse operation in the long run:

  1. Less expense as less energy spent on charging batteries
  2. No time and labour involved swapping batteries
  3. Less time and labour spent maintaining and watering when compared to lead-acid batteries
  4. Reduced waste of energy (a lead-acid battery normally uses up to 50% of its energy through heat, while a lithium battery uses only up to 15%)
  5. Smaller overall battery size leads to similar purchase costs and offer the same or better autonomy due to opportunity charging.

Is Every Lithium Battery The Same?

Lithium-ion is named for its active materials. There are several types of chemical components to build rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The most two relevant materials to the forklift industry are Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) and Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC).

NMC technology is very well known from the car industry and other manufacturing where weight and size play a major role. The upside of NMC batteries is a high energy density and the compact size. The downside of the NMC cell is the high possibility of inflammation and explosion when punctures or overheated. Due to the light weight and high energy density some manufacturers are still using NMC in material handling products, while manufacturers like BYD, Linde, Still, EP Equipment and others have switched to a different technology.

LFP technology is currently the technology used by the leading manufacturers of Li-Ion material handling products. LFP offers good electrochemical performance with low resistance. The key benefits are high current ratings and long cycle lives, besides good thermal stability LFP provides enhanced safety and tolerance if abused. There are many advantages to choosing an LFP-powered machine especially when looking at larger equipment like an electric ride on pallet truck or electric forklift truck. The LFP battery plays out its strengths as it does not catch fire or burn when punctured. EP Equipment produces all its Li-Ion machines with LFP batteries to power its trucks as Li-phosphate is more tolerant to full charge conditions and is less stressed than other lithium-ion systems if kept at high voltage for a prolonged time.

 

How To Select The Right Lithium Battery For Your Equipment?

When considering replacing an existing lead-acid battery with a Lithium Ion battery, or comparing lithium batteries across different providers, you need to take a couple of things into consideration:

High Quality Cells

The cell is the heart of the battery. EP uses only the highest quality cells equipped with the safest technology and strive to improve energy and power density and extend the service life. EP adopts LiFePO4 cells that can be used in a wide range of temperatures for various applications, even in extreme weather conditions. EP has been designing and assembling custom battery solutions for various electronic applications. There are 13 specifications on lithium battery cells to match our customers’ unique requirements.

Reliable BMS System

Safety of lithium-based batteries has attracted much media and legal attention. Battery management systems (BMS) play a crucial role to protect the battery against short circuit, reverse polarity, over and under voltage and over current in the reliability of systems utilising lithium-ion batteries. By data-collecting, calculating and controlling the charge and discharge process of voltage, current, temperature and state-of-charge, BMS secures the battery longevity and improves battery performance.

Lithium-ion batteries are notorious for bursting into flames when overheating, mostly while charging. A good charger is not enough to prevent this. The BMS communicates with the battery, with the truck and with the charger and continuously monitors the temperature. The BMS kicks in when the temperature is out of range.

The BMS also prevents the battery from overheating during usage, as the lifetime of a li-ion battery strongly depends on its operating conditions. And the BMS does more: Charging is optimised and charging and discharging cycles are stored in its memory. EP Lithium-ion batteries are produced in our own factory and equipped with our own in-house developed BMS to ensure the reliability and safety of the batteries.

Stable CAN Bus System

The Controller Area Network (CAN bus) is the nerve system, enabling communication between all parts of the battery. The CAN bus acts as a central networking hub communicating information relating to the battery condition and automatically sending alarms to the BMS system when damages occur.

With the combination of BMS and CAN functionalities, EP develops its remote diagnostic system to proactively monitor the battery performance of all EP Lithium-integrated trucks. It is a powerful system providing advanced data monitoring and analysis capabilities for better technical support service.

Suitable Fittings

High quality components can avoid overheating when high current charges and discharges. EP batteries are engineered with the highest quality components to maximise the performance of your battery system.

EP Lithium Battery Applications: List Trucks

With years of experience and achievements in research and development, EP have been dedicated to developing its lithium battery technology. This expertise has been applied for EP trucks and after-sales services to establish a cohesive product support system for valued customers for work productivity and truck efficiency optimisation. In 2019, EP advertised the slogan “LiST” featuring EP’s new array of lithium-integrated smart trucks. The series delivers savings in weight and space, a superior cycle life and charges a lot quicker.

Combining all the benefits of lithium technology with an intelligent BMS, the LiST series showcases two major smart applications: telematics and Bluetooth services. Telematics can be used to monitor hours used and miles driven in real time. Bluetooth service streams fault information and syncs diagnostics data from a truck to the operator’s mobile phone. The wireless communication technology that sends data in real time over long distances has allowed EP to develop remote diagnostic technologies for a one-stop after-sales services.

EP LiST trucks are widely used in various industries, such as transportation and logistics, the retail sector, general manufacturing, construction, food, and the beverage industry. With EPs lithium equipment providing many benefits such as  less pollution, higher energy efficiency, and lower maintenance costs more and more manufacturing professionals are looking to integrate lithium products into there operations.

EP's Vision: Energy Storage System

EP have been working with its R&D team and have developed there own lithium battery energy storage system, it is a solar energy storage system that automatically converts solar energy into electricity and stores in lithium battery packs for operators to use at later time. It allows forklift operators to reduce costs and maximise up time during working hours by eliminating demand charges from a company’s utility bill or by providing a reliable emergency power backup.

EP's battery energy storage system includes solar panels and EP lithium battery packs. The solar panels collect energy from the sun and turn it into electricity, which is passed through the inverter and stored in lithium battery packs that operators can then use to swap dead batteries from their trucks anytime without discontinuing their shifts.

In typical battery energy storage systems, the higher the battery’s capacity, the more solar energy it can store. With a stamp of lithium batteries as the best option for energy density, EP battery energy storage system adopts lithium batteries for storage of excess solar power. Moreover, the benefits of BMS and CAN bus systems in lithium batteries allow the system to monitor battery performance during electricity production—making it incredibly safe.

Lithium Battery Safety Certifications

Battery safety is at the top of the list for both manufactures and end users. EP's lithium batteries are rigorously tested and certified by universal standard practices in industry to ensure conformance to global standards where they are used.

Is Li-Ion The Right Choice For Me?

When purchasing or renting material handling equipment we understand that you want to consider all of your options. Contact us directly to receive further information about EP Lithium products. If a Lithium-ion battery is something you’re interested in pairing with your system, or you would like to receive further information about EPs Lithium products, contact us now.

 

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