Lead-acid the battery of choice for forklifts — for now

Lead-acid batteries will continue to have an advantage over lithium-ion ones — but just for the present generation of forklift trucks, Amit Ghosal, the chief executive of Espex Batteries told BESB at the end of July. Espex, based in Wales, is a subsidiary of India’s Exide Industries

Ghosal, pictured, said the fact that forklift trucks needed the weight of the lead-acid battery to counterbalance loads was a major advantage of the batteries, along with the cost it would mean to replace them with lithium-ion. Steel ballasts have to be used to counterbalance loads when lighter lithium batteries are used.

However Ghosal reckoned it was only a matter of time before lithium-ion took over the sector, “depending on whether it and the other raw materials, like cobalt, are available,” he said. “Lead-acid is more dependable in that respect. I give it 10 years.

“But with all the latest announcements to do with EVs being made, there could be a massive demand for lithium. This could make the price rise even higher. The only advantage with lithium at the moment is that it recharges more quickly.”

Ghosal said the move to replace forklift truck batteries with lithium ones would only happen when the trucks needed replacing — and each truck had a life expectancy of 20 years.

“It’s when the trucks start being replaced that the shift to lithium will start to happen.”

His comments came just days after Canada-based lithium battery firm Electrovaya announced it had delivered its first batch of lithium-ion ceramic batteries to Mondelez International, a US snacks company.

The batteries will directly replace the lead-acid batteries in the firm’s Class 2 forklift trucks.

Espex’ parent, lead-acid battery maker Exide Industries, headquartered in Kolkota, is known to be considering making lithium-ion batteries.

Espex imports the basic cells from Exide and makes around 75,000 batteries a year in the UK, Ghosal said.