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Selecting the Right Forklift Battery

Written by William C. Shumay Jr. for Arcon Equipment Inc., published in the Material Handling Wholesaler
copyright © William C. Shumay Jr.
For more articles, please visit http://www.arconequipment.com

It’s time to review an important skill in the electric forklift trade: selecting the battery. Forklift batteries come in different shapes and sizes as well as voltages, so it is important to bring to the phone several pieces of information if you, as a forklift dealer, need a battery from a battery supplier. The battery supplier will have to bring his own information to the table as well, namely test results on any used or reconditioned batteries that he intends to sell you. Don’t settle for less. The battery supplier will ask you several questions, as follows.

What is the required battery voltage?

Although some lift trucks can handle either 36-volt or 48–volt batteries without much reconfiguring, make sure you know the facts about the voltage the forklift was designed to handle. Remember, an alternate way to define the battery voltage is by number of cells. Each cell in a lead–acid battery is a nominal 2 volts, so discussions about an "18–cell battery" refer to a 36–volt battery.

What are the compartment dimensions?

Rather than the dimensions of the old battery, the supplier will need to know the maximum space available in the battery compartment. If you are looking for a used battery, the only battery available at the moment (at the right price) may happen to be bigger than the old dead battery in the truck. The rule of thumb here: if it fits into the truck, it is the right size – unless it is too small for the counterweight requirement. You also need to know this counterweight specification.

What is the forklift manufacturer’s minimum battery weight requirement?

This is important operational and safety information that can be found on the truck’s data plate. What this specification may not take into account is extra weight later added forward of the front wheels by lifting attachments such as clamps, carpet rams, or other accessories. Putting a battery into a truck compartment that is lighter than the manufacturer’s minimum battery weight requirement is an invitation to disaster. The battery in an electric forklift truck is the major part of the overall counterweight. Even customers that normally handle pallets of potato chips may occasionally use their lift truck to move a heavy piece of equipment. Don’t install an underweight battery!

Does the battery need a cover?

The battery top needs to be covered. If the truck body does not provide a cover over the battery compartment, then the battery must come equipped with its own cover.

What are the connector, cable length, and cable position?

Today’s battery connector choices are simplified to a couple of popular styles, but be prepared to provide your battery supplier with a connector description, including color (because different color "SB style" connectors do not interconnect). The battery man will need to know cable position (where the battery plugs into the lift truck – "on the left side of the seated driver" for example.) Also, the length of the battery cable required must be provided (in other words, how far must the cables extend from the edge of the battery case to easily reach the truck connector?) Today’s battery connector choices are simplified to a couple of popular styles, but be prepared to provide your battery supplier with a connector description, including color (because different color "SB style" connectors do not interconnect). The battery man will need to know cable position (where the battery plugs into the lift truck – "on the left side of the seated driver" for example.) Also, the length of the battery cable required must be provided (in other words, how far must the cables extend from the edge of the battery case to easily reach the truck connector?)

What are the charger specifications?

If you have a charger, get the nameplate data and review it with your battery supplier to make sure that it is correct for the battery (all 36– volt battery chargers do not charge all 36-volt batteries – current output rating differs). Most chargers are designed to charge a specific battery voltage and cannot be converted to another. Most can, however be changed over from one AC input voltage to another – with care (some are easier to change than others). And remember, if your customer has only single-phase AC power available, a 3-phase charger is just not going to do.

If you have picked a big enough battery supplier, you should find a wide range of reconditioned chargers available there too. It is important that the charger be properly calibrated to original factory specifications. Improper charging can be both inconvenient and damaging to the battery. And keep in mind that the new "maintenance–free"sealed batteries are not to be charged on a conventional charger (unless the charger is one of the few with this adjustment option – and it is expertly calibrated). If the manufacturer’s warranty is a concern, a maintenance–free battery must be charged only on the specific charger (brand and model) recommended by the battery manufacturer.

If your forklift customer is inclined to do all of his own shopping, you can always sell him a forklift with an empty compartment and point him in the direction of a good battery supplier. To help expedite the sale, do research the availability and cost of the battery and charger. Your customer will appreciate the information.

For more information, contact Arcon Equipment Inc. (440) 232-1422.

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