BYD Europe has unveiled at CeMAT a range of forklifts featuring advanced battery technology that slashes operating costs and means customers need never buy a new battery again.
Ask any forklift fleet manager what the biggest headaches are with traditional electric fork lift trucks and the answer is invariably the same – the time, trouble and cost involved in constantly having to recharge them as well as the risk of damage to the battery due to improper maintenance, which leads to expensive battery replacement.
But now a new concept in battery technology is set to completely redefine the performance users will come to expect from their electric materials handling equipment, removing many of these problems and substantially reducing the operating costs involved.
BYD’s Fe (lithium iron phosphate - not to be confused with lithium-ion) battery - unveiled at CeMAT 2014 in a new range of fork lift trucks - requires significantly less time and energy to charge than traditional lead-acid batteries and offers such a dramatically extended total battery life that, for the first time ever, the truck battery needs never be replaced.
Typical charging time for a lithium iron phosphate battery is just one to two hours – less than a quarter of that normally required by lead-acid alternatives. And gone are the days when the only way to extend shift life was to have a second battery and some heavyweight battery changing equipment to hand, because the working hours of an Fe battery can be significantly extended at any time with a quick ‘top-up’ session – just 10 minutes’ charging while the lift truck operator takes a coffee break, in fact, is all that is needed to extend working time up to 45 minutes.
This quick full charging time and the ability to top up the charge in short bursts without damaging overall battery life make the BYD lithium iron phosphate battery hugely flexible for end users.
But charging isn’t just extremely quick and flexible – it’s also highly cost-effective, since the BYD Fe battery consumes around 40% less electricity during charging/discharging than a standard lead-acid one. That means much lower energy bills for users of the technology as well as making a serious contribution to reducing carbon emissions.
Talking of emissions, charging the BYD lithium iron phosphate battery is also much cleaner than alternative battery technology, pumping out no hydrogen gas that requires lead-acid battery charging to be confined to dedicated areas.
That allows users to position their charging stations right next to the drivers’ rest area without problem, making it quick and easy for drivers to park up and plug in and removing any need for them to walk back across the warehouse from a more remote charging station, helping to keep any risk of collision between pedestrians and other vehicles to a minimum.
The Fe battery also contributes to safety in other ways, too: unlike some lithium-ion batteries, BYD lithium iron phosphate batteries do not present risk, even when dropped, crushed or subjected to overcharging. They do not contain heavy metals or acid, either, and so cannot contaminate ground or water supplies as a lead-acid battery might, and neither do they heat up dramatically during charging in the way that traditional lead-acid batteries do.
BYD’s revolutionary Fe battery technology also does away completely with the need for daily and weekly battery maintenance, saving on the time and labour otherwise involved in frequent battery inspections and top-ups and, of course, on the expensive distilled water normally required.
The upshot of all this is a very dramatic saving in operating costs: BYD has calculated that the annual operating and battery amortization cost savings when using a lithium iron phosphate battery in a single-shift, five-day-a–week lift truck operation could exceed €1,500 a year.
The astonishing lifespan of a BYD lithium iron phosphate battery creates a further layer of savings, because even after 4,000 charging cycles, these amazing power cells retain over 75% of their original capacity. That means that after eight years of dual-shift operation five days a week, the remaining capacity in the battery will exceed 75%.
The life span of the BYD battery is much longer than that of a typical (four- to six-year) lifespan of an ordinary lead-acid battery.
That means a single BYD lithium iron phosphate battery could replace up to four traditional lead acid ones over 8-10 years in operations where daily battery changes were required for the latter – a saving in battery purchase costs over the period of over €10,000 for every lithium iron phosphate battery-equipped forklift in use.
Little wonder, perhaps, that Javier Contijoch, forklifts director at BYD Europe, said he was expecting a massive level of interest in the new technology, both at CeMAT 2014 and in coming months.
“Companies running lift trucks will be compelled to take a closer look at this technology,” he predicted. ”No fleet manager these days can afford to ignore the massive savings, in both purchase and operating costs, of the BYD ‘battery for life’ approach - or to pass up the opportunity of using such a clean, safe and sustainable source of power.
“It’s obvious that lithium iron phosphate battery technology is a breakthrough in the forklift sector, and BYD Europe, as the world’s biggest battery manufacturer, has now made future a modern-day reality with the new range of trucks,” added Contijoch.