Toyota Introduces Lithium-ion Forklift Models
Toyota reports nearly a quarter of its electrically powered forklift truck models in the United Kingdom are now powered by Lithium-ion cells.
The global Lithium-ion battery market is expected to be worth around US $1,400,000 by 2026 according to a recent forecast by India-based analysts, Research Dive which attributes growth to savings in energy efficiency and fleet running costs.
Additionally, advances in both battery and charger technology have alleviated health and safety issues concerns surrounding the technology which linked Lithium-ion battery cells to high-profile fires at several industrial buildings.
Benefits historically associated with Lithium-ion technology include easy charging functionality which can be especially significant for operators of trucks working at high intensity over multiple shifts or for extended periods.
Gary Ison, Sales Training & Product Development Manager at Toyota Material Handling UK, says: “While lead acid remains by far the dominant battery type within the electric-powered forklift market, sales of Lithium-ion forklifts have been on a sustained upward curve for some time.
“Lead acid batteries have been a highly capable forklift power solution for years, and it is estimated that in the region of 90 per cent of all electric forklifts in operation throughout the world are still running on these battery types. But Lithium-ion battery technology is now seen as the next evolution in forklift efficiency.
“Over the last decade or so, electric-powered forklifts have become an increasingly popular choice for businesses across all industry sectors who find themselves under growing social and legislative pressure to operate in as environmentally sensitive way as they can.
“Traditionally, electric lift trucks have relied on lead-acid battery technology but the Lithium-Ion solution has now become well established as a viable alternative. Today, in the right applications, Lithium-ion is revolutionising the way some companies operate their intralogistics processes.
“Lithium-ion batteries have the ability to be recharged in as little as one hour – which increases a truck’s overall availability. One hour’s charging will give in the region of 4 to 5 hours of operating time. Also, as these batteries allow for opportunity charging, trucks can be recharged anywhere by the operator during breaks in a shift or other periods of downtime. As a result, there is no need to swap batteries – so dedicated charging rooms and spare batteries aren’t necessary.
“Lithium-ion’s suitability as a power source for lift trucks is not driven by the number of forklifts in operation at a site but by the intensity of their schedule. A company that runs one reach truck 24 hours-a-day will benefit from switching to LiB while a facility with a dozen machines that are used for light duties from 9-to-5 would commercially probably still be better served by trucks powered by lead acid batteries.”
He cautions, however, over the need for any multi-shift operation with a high number of trucks to manage and schedule operator break periods and consider the scenario where several trucks are ‘plugged in’ for recharging at the same time, explaining: “during the shorter ‘opportunity’ recharging process a LiB can draw down up to four times the power from the National Grid than that which is needed to charge a traditional lead-acid battery over 8 – 12 hours.
“If charging schedules are not properly managed and too many LiBs are on charge at the same time there is risk that a building’s power supply could be overloaded.”
New Lithium-ion ready Forklift Models
The first three models in Toyota’s recently launched BT Reflex family of reach trucks– the high-performance R-series, the E-series (which features Toyota’s iconic and unique tilting cab), and the flexible O-series for inside and outside use are all Lithium-ion ready and come with a choice of three intelligent energy packages to suit every customer’s application requirements.
All three are based on the company’s own modular Lithium-ion battery system which it describes as delivering a high degree of operational flexibility.