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How to Convert Forklift Battery Compartments From Overhead to Side Access

If your electric forklifts only provide overhead access for batteries, you might be curious about the advantages of side-extraction. Lateral battery changes are safer and more efficient than gantry cranes; by some estimates, changing batteries with horizontal access is up to six times faster than lifting them out vertically.

These efficiency gains are attractive for any facility manager, but they're probably not enough to justify the replacement of your entire forklift fleet. Luckily, you don't have to.

With a few pieces of equipment and some well-trained technicians, you can easily convert your top-down battery compartments for reliable side-extraction. Here's how it's done.

    1. Cut a side-access panel.

    Most forklift battery compartments are made of steel, which means they can be snipped with a cutting torch without losing structural integrity. Every conversion to side-extraction starts with removing one side of the battery compartment.

    Compartment Roller Tray2. Choose a battery bed.

    Battery compartments configured for overhead extraction don't have anything special at the base. Since batteries are dropped in from above, a simple steel floor is sufficient to keep them contained. Side-extraction, on the other hand, depends on reducing friction as the battery moves into the chamber.

    A Compartment Roller Tray from Solus Group is the best option for conversion to side-extraction. If you've had good luck with slide strips, though, you can simply attach Compartment Slide Strips on the interior of the existing battery compartment.

    3. Match your chosen battery tray to the dimensions of your forklift battery compartment.

    There are a wide variety of forklift batteries on the market, and they don't all fit into every compartment. Compartment Roller Trays from Solus Group are available in a standard height of 2 3/16", and a length of 30". If your forklift battery compartments are slimmer than that, though, you can easily order a roller tray to meet your specifications.

    For particularly tight battery compartments, choose a Low Profile Plate Mount Compartment Roller Tray. This option uses the plate frame to drop effortlessly into your battery compartment, instantly configuring it for lateral access.

    4. Attach the battery tray.

    Some battery compartments provide enough of a lip to simply drop in a Compartment Roller Tray. Other designs may need to be tack welded to provide stability during battery changes. If you opt for slide-strips, you can simply drill and bolt them on, or choose model CSS-W to weld them in.

Side-extraction isn't just more efficient than using gantry cranes, it's also a lot safer. When you pull thousands of pounds of electrochemical motive power out of a forklift, you have to lift it several feet into the air (at least). Battery carts and carriages, on the other hand, don't have to travel any higher than the lower lip of your battery compartment.

Not only will you have a safer workplace and considerably faster change-outs, you'll provide better protection for battery investments. Converting to lateral access is easy and, with specialized equipment from Solus Group, the costs are negligible. There’s never been a better time to reconfigure your fleet for side-extraction.4