Electric forklifts are powered by large, industrial grade batteries. These batteries are extremely heavy and quite expensive, as well. The proper care and maintenance of these batteries can greatly extend their useful life span and allow your machine operators to be more efficient and productive. With the cost of these batteries, as well as the down time associated with any problems, the life span of the unit is of great concern.
Forklift batteries will discharge at varying rates depending on the workload and time of service. As a general rule, batteries should not be put on a charger until they are at least 80 percent discharged. Depending on the weight of loads being handled, the number of shifts being worked, and the actual number of hours of operation, this may represent daily charging cycles, but usually not. Charging a battery too frequently will result in a shorter life span for the battery.
Most modern forklift batteries are designed to last a minimum of 1,500 charge cycles. If a battery is under heavy use and requires daily charging, the 1,500 charge cycles would represent approximately five years of service. While this is the average, with proper care, most batteries have the capability of lasting well beyond the standard 1,500 charge cycles.
You should never allow a forklift battery to be completely discharged. This is known as a deep discharge and can result in damage to the battery. In addition, this can alter the amount of power being supplied to the forklift and can result in damage to electrical components as well as the forklift motor. It is also possible the charger will not have the ability to properly communicate with the battery and will be unable to provide a charge. In these instances, a service call will be necessary to make the charger work properly. In some instances, even when a charge is given, the charger is incapable of fully charging the battery and the result can begin a dangerous cycle of incomplete charge cycles.
Proper Care and Maintenance
The water level in the battery should be checked regularly. It is recommended to check these levels every five charge cycles. If the water is low, fill the cell to just above the visible protector inside the battery. Do not over fill the cell. A great deal of heat is generated during the charging process and some expansion will occur. If over filled the water will overflow. If spills or overflows do occur, clean them up immediately. Once you place the battery on the charger, do not interrupt the charge cycle. Approximately every five to 10 charge cycles place the charger on the "weekend" or "equalize" setting. This setting should not be used for the normal charge cycles as it will shorten the life span of the battery.
PPE: Personal Protective Equipment
It is crucial you observe all safety rules while working with forklift batteries. Never use a open flame to check the water level. The fumes created by the battery are highly flammable. The charging area should also be well ventilated and be equipped with a fire extinguisher as well as an acid spill kit. When checking water levels or performing other work on the battery you should wear eye protection as well as hand protection. An apron is also highly recommended. Most areas also require an emergency eyewash station to be located in or near the charging area.