Batteries are often the fuel that keeps a warehouse moving, yet it is common to ignore basic steps in battery care that improve their performance. Neglecting these battery basics carries a long-term impact that is probably more significant than you think.
Let’s face it: you invest a lot in forklift batteries. They are probably the second-most expensive asset you have after your forklifts. New batteries typically have a lifespan of approximately 1,500 cycles — lasting up to five years — but achieving long battery life requires proper charging, cleaning, and maintenance. Essentially, the right care, at the right time.
It is not difficult to take care of this investment. Here are the 5 basic steps that will improve performance and battery lifespan.
1. Charge when it’s needed, not when it’s convenient.
Premature charging eats away at the battery lifespan because each charge costs the battery one of its (approximate) 1,500 total life cycles. So, never opportunity charge and don’t swap batteries mid-shift. A battery should be charged once each work day — totaling about 300 times in a year. Charge batteries at the end of each shift, or whenever one is more than 30% discharged.
2. Fully charge each time and right away.
It might seem easier to just charge a battery long enough to get a few hours of work out of it. But, batteries must get fully recharged daily to efficiently function through their normal run-time and to last their expected lifespan. Discharged batteries should never sit uncharged for extended periods of time because it allows for hard sulphation and significant loss of run-time strength.
3. Clean them regularly.
Part of monthly maintenance involves cleaning the top of the batteries with a battery cleaner or warm water. Regular cleaning prevents buildup from the cell breather during the charge process.
4. Maintain proper water levels.
When batteries are charging, the water inside them boils, so too much water will overflow, causing damage. Water levels should be checked and filled correctly about every 10 charges and filled only when a battery is fully charged. Too much or too little water can also cut the lifespan of the battery. There is enough water when the level is high enough to cover the lead plates inside each cell.
5. Monitor batteries in real time, while in use.
Cloud-based fleet-management software provides battery monitoring, which maximizes battery efficiency. It allows operators to see the status of each battery while in use, providing an accurate assessment of battery health, when charges are occurring, targeted temperature readings, and the state of each charge.
Improper care for batteries costs you more than you probably realize. It causes downtime, forklifts running at reduced capacity, and shorter battery lifespan. Basic battery care is more effective if it is based off of data that deems it necessary. Battery-monitoring technology provides that data — allowing you to be proactive in extending the life of your batteries and reducing the cost of powering your fleet.