Author: Mil Ovan
Company: Navitas Systems
The Department of Defense owns and operates large fleets forklift trucks for material handling purposes. Many of these forklift trucks are electric, powered by very large lead acid batteries. While sufficient for low intensity warehouse applications, the 100+ year old lead acid chemistry has inherent deficiencies for high intensity multi-shift warehouses, hot temperature warehouses, and/or cold temperature warehouse applications:
• Low cycle life requiring replacement every 3 to 5 years
• Regular maintenance required including watering and battery equalizations
• Sulfation problems when left in a partial state of charge for long periods, causing reductions in daily battery runtime and permanent damage to the battery
• Faster Life degradation in hot temperature warehouses due to accelerated corrosion of the lead metal and liquid electrolyte dry-out within the battery
• Slow charge capability, requiring 6 to 8 hours for full 100% charging and another 8 hours for battery cool-down
• Three shifts per day operation may require up to 3 batteries per forklift
• Voltage droop at second half of discharge, causing slowdown in forklifts when they lift as well as drive, resulting in loss of driver productivity
• Low charge/discharge efficiency, causing heating with high intensity use and inefficient/more costly use of electricity
• Dangerous liquid sulfuric acid electrolyte and heavy metal pollution issues associated with lead
• Dramatic loss of useable capacity in cold-temperature warehouses
• High pollution levels when using propane-powered forklifts inside of warehouses
DESCRIPTION OF TECHNOLOGY
Navitas Systems has developed an industry leading line of Forklift Class 1, 2 and 3 lithium iron phosphate forklift batteries called StarLifterTM, designed to overcome the maintenance and productivity loss challenges experienced in high-intensity and cold temperature warehouse applications.
CURRENT STATUS OF THE TECHNOLOGY
StarLifter is now in use by numerous major corporations spanning food distribution, third party logistics (3PL), automotive, and three of the top five forklift OEMs. Navitas recently deployed Starlifter at the Defense Logistics Agency’s single largest worldwide site, the Eastern Distribution Center at Susquehanna PA. Details of the testing at DLA can be found by watching this DLA video entitled “The Heavy Duty Forklift Challenge” at http://www.dla.mil/Distribution/Lithium-Ion-Battery-Project/ .
TEST DATA OR SIMULATION SUPPORT FOR PERFORMANCE CLAIMS
StarLifter has completed a two year independent test funded by NYSERDA in partnership with forklift manufacturer Raymond Corporation. The testing indicated a 17% improvement in amount of pallets moved per shift as compared against lead acid batteries. A side-by-side video which timed a lift of equal weight between a lead acid powered forklift and a Starlifter lithium-powered forklift showed a 25% increase in speed, and can be viewed at www.lithiumforkliftpower.com .
NEXT STEPS / POTENTIAL BENEFITS
Strong applicability across the government: This past December 2017, DLA San Joaquin has joined DLA Susquehanna as the next to implement Starlifter to replace use of propane forklifts within their cold distribution warehouse; Navy has shown strong recent interest aboard ships to replace lead acid forklifts under main decks.