Electric Lift Trucks and the Two Types of Forklift Battery Compartments

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By Jennifer Taylor July 4, 2016

Say you've decided to upgrade your fleet to electric power. First off, congratulations. That decision will provide countless benefits, both financial and environmental, for years to come. That’s why electric forklifts continue to gain more market share, making up 64 percent of the industry in 2014.

To make a successful transition to electric power, though, you'll need to take a holistic approach. In addition to the forklifts themselves, you must equip your facility with battery handling devices and storage infrastructure. Your equipment choices will start with a specific design element of trucks themselves: the battery compartment.

There are two general categories of forklift battery compartments. Some trucks require vertical access, dropping batteries into a walled chamber, and lifting them out when it's time for a new charge. Others provide horizontal access, or side-extraction. These battery compartments contain roller-beds or slide strips, and integrate with battery extractors that gently pull batteries out of the truck for a constant rotation of power.

So which design is better? Like anything else that has to do with material handling equipment, the answer will depend on the application. The important thing is to choose equipment that's designed specifically for the job at hand. That said, there are a few advantages to each design that can be applied generally, and can get you started on the decision-making process.

Advantages of Vertical Extraction for Forklift Batteries

Early electric forklifts relied on vertical extraction for batteries. Even though side-extraction is more popular today, there are a few reasons fleet managers might want to stick with this classic design.

  • Vertical extraction requires less-specialized equipment. Powered gantries combined with Hardwood Battery Stations provide the safest, most efficient battery changes. But, in general, gantry cranes are capable of serving multiple purposes in a warehousing environment.
  • Some operations either already own a vertical-extraction fleet, or find a deal that's too good to pass up on forklifts with top-down battery compartments. If you have a compelling reason to choose this style of forklift, you might be a prime candidate for a gantry-based battery changing area. 
  • Initial expenses may be lower for a gantry crane system. That all depends on the scale of your operation, of course, and side-extraction set-ups tend to save money over time. But if you need an electric forklift fleet on a limited budget, vertical extraction might be the way to go.

The Benefits of Lateral Battery Removal for Forklifts

ATCMost newer forklifts default to lateral-extraction battery compartments. The advantages are undeniable.

  • Changing a battery with a battery cart, like the Automatic Transfer Carriage from Solus Group, is safer than hauling thousands of pounds of steel and electrolyte into the air.
  • Side-extraction is much more efficient than vertical battery changes. With a top-of-the-line Operator Aboard Battery Extractor, battery changes only take 2 or 3 minutes. Gantry cranes tend to require 10-12 minutes to pull out a spent battery and replace it with a fresh one. 
  • It's rare in any application to drop a battery. But when a battery tumbles from a side-extraction truck, it only falls a few inches. A battery crashing down from a gantry crane is a much more disastrous accident.
  • Battery compartments that open into a truck's flank are easier to clean and service. With the spark-proof, poly-sleeved rollers provided in most battery carts and carriage from Solus Group, the risk of corrosion and damage from electrolyte drips is greatly reduced.

The advantages of side-extraction battery compartments predominantly outweigh those of their vertical-pull counterparts. No matter which type of battery compartment you end up with, though, Solus Group can help you choose battery handling equipment that will provide safe and efficient change-outs for the entire working life of your fleet.

References:

Faust, Brian. “Electric Forklifts Gain Acceptance, Driven by Sustainability Features.” Foodlogistics. AC Business Media, 26 Sep. 2014. Web. 16 May 2016.

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