Why forklift users are switching from LPG to lithium-ion


John Maguire is managing director of Narrow Aisle Ltd, manufacturer of the Flexi range of articulated VNA forklifts. Magiure believes that operators of LP Gas-powered warehouse trucks are increasingly switching to lithium-ion battery-powered alternatives as they look to maximise truck up-time, drive down running costs, reduce operational noise levels and eliminate exhaust emissions within their buildings.

“LP Gas is costly and linked to global oil prices, and from an operational point of view, the time taken to change or fill each gas bottle means that truck downtime can be a problem for some high utilisation customers,” he says. “In addition, the control systems and catalytic converters required to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide emission from LPG engines add significantly to a truck’s operating costs, so it’s easy to see why many warehouse operators consider lithium-ion powered trucks to be a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to LPG machines. Indeed, according to recent research, 78 per cent of lift truck operators stated that they will consider lithium-ion when the time comes for their next forklift acquisition.”

Narrow Aisle Ltd launched the Flexi LiTHiON range of lithium-ion powered articulated warehouse trucks two years ago and the trucks have become a popular choice among a wide range of customer groups who need the rapid charge and multi-shift availability provided by lithium power without the storage and time consuming change-over issues associated with LP Gas bottles.

“The Flexi LiTHiON range is clean, quiet, powerful, efficient and easy to drive – and is proving to be a highly popular product with third party logistics service suppliers and manufacturers with warehouses looking to achieve maximum supply chain efficiency,” says Maguire.

A lithium-ion system requires zero maintenance and delivers extended multi-shift availability – making models in the collection the ideal ‘green’ energy solution for modern order fulfillment operations, temperature controlled stores, chemical stores and automotive manufacturing facilities.

With all drive, hydraulic and power-steering functions digitally controlled and integrated with the battery’s advanced software systems, lithium-ion is able to perform at full power throughout a typical shift with no drop off in performance levels. This ability to distribute consistent power levels, means maximum efficiency is achieved even during the busiest multi-shift operation.

The truck monitors the battery function constantly and reports the battery status in real time – and the combination of fully integrated digital motors and lithium-ion power is so effective when it comes to eliminating wasted power that truck availability is typically increased by 25 per cent every day.

“For any multi-shift operation, switching from LPG to lithium-ion-powered materials handling equipment really is a ‘no-brainer’,” adds Maguire. “A lithium-ion battery can be fully charged in under an hour and provides consistent voltage – which means they don’t slow down the machine as they discharge. And, because they do not emit any exhaust gases, they are a better option for the working environment.” 

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Saul Wordsworth is deputy editor of the iVT brand - which includes digital and print editions of a quarterly magazine and Off-Highway Annual, as well as ivtinternational.com. He is a keen cyclist and lives in north London.

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