Advice to First Time Electric Truck Owners

Communications between lift truck dealers and buyers is part sales pitch and part customer service. But be sure that your first-time electric lift truck owner is brought up to speed on the operational details of living with a battery-powered vehicle.

That buyer may not realize that the battery in his new truck is not just an electric fuel tank. In fact, the battery is a small electro-chemical energy factory that must run its chemical reactions under the proper conditions to generate electricity.

Rules For New Owners Day to day battery operation requires owners to pay attention to these details:

  1. Charge the battery properly. Wait until the battery is 80 percent discharged and charge it for one full (8 hour) cycle on a properly adjusted charger of the correct capacity rating.

  2. Discharge the battery properly. Use a hydrometer or discharge indicator gauge to determine the 80 percent discharge point. Deeper discharge has a detrimental effect on battery life.

  3. Add water when necessary (preferably after the battery is fully charged)

  4. Keep the top of the battery clean, and metal surfaces acid-free. Rinse it off at least 2 to 3 times per year.

  5. Do not produce sparks or use an open flame near the top of a battery. Keep metal objects clear of bare connectors. Follow all safety practices recommended by the battery manufacturer.

Charging Wisely The most common concern of new electric truck owners is how often to charge the battery. The battery should be charged when it reaches its 80 percent discharge point, even if intermittent use takes days to bring the battery down to this level. The "daily" or "8 hour" setting on the charger panel should be used if the charger is timer-controlled. Of course, there are times when a big work day ahead dictates that a battery be brought up to full charge from a 50 percent level. This is fine, but best battery economics follow when a full charge is used at the 80 percent discharge level. On both timer-controlled and some microprocessor-equipped (auto-start) chargers, an "equalize" or "weekly" setting is available. This extra long equalizing charge is to be used only once out of every five to seven charge cycles. This special charge ensures that none of the battery cells are allowed to drop behind the others, and all have a chance to achieve a fully charged condition. Equalize charging more often than recommended causes excessive wear and tear on the battery. After an equalizing charge, all battery cells should provide a hydrometer (acid electrolyte specific gravity) reading of 1.275 (or more in some cases). If hydrometer readings show any cells that deviate more than 20 to 25 points (.020 to .025) from the rest of the battery, professional attention is required. Do not attempt a hydrometer reading directly after watering the battery – water takes a considerable amount of time to mix with the rest of the electrolyte. Battery charging problems, caused by operator error, equipment malfunction or maladjustment, can be significantly reduced with a computerized (microprocessor) charger control. Available as an add-on for older style timer-equipped chargers, microprocessor charger controls provide automatic start and shutoff of the charger based on the battery’s needs. Some of these controls also provide an automatic equalizing charge at the proper time.

Watering Properly Because the battery’s fluid level rises during charging, many users find battery acid overflow to be a problem. This is easily avoided by adding water only after a complete charge, and filling only to the proper level. Filler nozzles with automatic shutoff are available to simplify this process. Having a hose handy with an automatic filler nozzle attached encourages attention to battery fluid levels. Tap water is generally acceptable for batteries if it does not have a high mineral content. If the user is unsure about the suitability of his water supply, the battery manufacturer can provide water impurity guidelines. Depending on how much the lift truck is used, checking the battery fluid level may need to be either a weekly or monthly task. If a battery requires daily watering, it is likely the charger is out of adjustment, and the battery is being damaged as a result. If a truck owner has several different electric lift trucks, one way to avoid battery damage is to install distinct, color-keyed connectors for each separate battery-truck-charger system.

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