White Paper – The Highest-Energy Li-ion Battery: Unlocking the Potential of the Silicon Anode and Nickel-Rich NMC Cathode

Over the past decade, lithium-ion batteries have become essential to the portable electronics industry, and more recently have been championed as the transportation power source of the future. However, if electric vehicles are to gain widespread commercial success, modern lithium-ion batteries need to be cost-effective, energy dense and long-lasting. Dr Daniela Molina Piper, Dr Tyler Evans, Dr Se-Hee Lee and their team at SiILion Inc have been completely rethinking the fundamental building blocks of these typical batteries, to develop an elegant solution to a significant modern problem.

A lithium-ion battery essentially consists of three components: two electrodes, and an electrolyte solution between them. The basic principle is that lithium ions contained within the electrolyte move from the positive electrode (cathode) to the negative electrode (anode) when the battery is charging, and back again when discharging. Almost all commercial lithium-ion batteries use an anode made primarily of graphite, long regarded as the most efficient material in its ability accept and release lithium ions during battery charging and discharging. The effective capacity of the battery is determined by the number of lithium ions that can reversibly travel between the anode and cathode material throughout battery operation.

The success of the lithium-ion battery is due to its many advantages over other contemporary batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have an almost negligible ‘memory effect’ (also known as the ‘lazy battery effect’) – a phenomenon that causes the battery to lose its ability to store charge (or its ‘capacitance’) with repeating recharges over time. They also have a large ‘energy density’, meaning that they have a high energy yield per unit volume of battery material. Additionally, they have low ‘self-discharge’ – a phenomenon whereby the stored charge in a battery becomes reduced, even when no device is connected to the electrodes. To significantly reduce our carbon emissions, and thus mitigate the most disastrous consequences of climate change, replacing our gasoline-powered cars with battery-powered ones is an essential step. The lightweight nature of lithium-ion batteries, as opposed to hefty lead-acid batteries, makes them an attractive option for this application. Indeed, most electric vehicles currently in development rely on a lithium-ion battery as their power source. However, the main problems that are incurred come down to battery capacity and longevity – the battery simply not having enough energy to power long journey distances. To be fully adopted as a viable transportation solution, the agreed estimate is that batteries need a gravimetric energy density of over 350 Watthours per kilogram (Wh/kg). The best efforts of current lithium-ion batteries fall far short of this, below 300Wh/kg.

A change for the better

Over the past 25 years, incremental design improvements have allowed lithium-ion batteries to increase their energy density by around 5-6% each year, but since their inception, the basic materials used in these batteries have remained unaltered. This slow improvement in performance is underwhelming, and the team at SiILion believes that this adherence to the same stale electrode materials is holding back the growth of the industry. A drastic break with the status quo in lithium-ion materials is needed if the exciting future adaptations predicted for lithium-ion batteries are to be achieved any time soon.

Figure highlighting SilLion’s cycling capability

Silicon anodes could be suitable candidates to kick off this paradigm shift in lithium-ion batteries. In theory, silicon is an ideal replacement for graphite because of its low working potential versus lithium, and its high specific capacity, which is nearly 10 times higher than the most modern graphite anodes. As such, considerable research has been undertaken with the goal of creating a lithium-ion battery with a functioning silicon anode. However, in practice, a silicon anode has several drawbacks, particularly with its propensity to expand when the battery is charged.

The volume expansion of graphite anodes in most commercialized batteries is 10-13%, and silicon’s expansion can be up to almost 300%. This expansion problem causes massive structural damage in the battery and compromises the fragile interface between the solid silicon electrode and the liquid electrolyte (the ‘solid-electrolyte interphase’, or SEI). Most modern research focuses on modifying the silicon material in a complicated way to accommodate more lithium ions without such severe expansion. The drawback of these modifications, however, is that they require intricate and costly processing methods, making this approach less appealing in the manufacture of commercial batteries. As Dr Evans of SiILion Inc explains, “Most of the published work around silicon anodes focuses on complex material modifications that ultimately will introduce manufacturing processes that are very difficult to scale.” A simple, scalable solution to the silicon anode is one key to higher-performing batteries.

But what about the cathode?

By improving the anode’s performance, you can increase a battery’s maximum energy output by 20-30%. However, to unlock the true potential of the battery, the cathode needs to be similarly enhanced. In terms of the cost of producing lithium-ion batteries, the cathode accounts for 30% of the total expense – more than twice that of the anode. Most conventional lithium-ion batteries use expensive and toxic cathodes, containing large amounts of cobalt, which limits their widespread application to electric vehicles.

Thus, cathodes containing large proportions of nickel are being explored as alternatives. Unfortunately, they are also problematic because they can be unstable at high temperatures and their structure may not be adequately robust. So, similar to the silicon anode, modern research is focusing on expensive and elaborate modifications to these nickel-based cathodes, which again will limit their commercial viability.

A revolutionary approach from SiILion Inc

Dr Molina Piper, Dr Evans, Dr Lee and their team at SiILion Inc see the potential of these next-generation electrode materials, but also believe that the complex modification of the cathode and anode is not practical if these materials are to be applied to commercial battery systems. They claim that this method of combining next-generation materials with old-generation electrode and electrolyte designs leads to obvious incompatibility issues. Because of this, the materials are increasingly over-engineered, and very little practical progress is made.

The team at SiILion is beginning to rewrite the rulebook for lithium-ion battery design. Not only do the cathode and anode materials need to be next-generation, the entire battery also needs revamping. The researchers are shifting their focus to auxiliary battery materials, building a support system for the modern silicon and nickel-rich electrodes using unique electrolyte compositions and electrode binders, while maintaining the advantage of decades of manufacturing expertise by premising their designs on compatibility with existing lithium-ion battery manufacturing methods. As Dr Molina Piper explains, “ Enabling the next-generation electrode materials will mean enabling a next-generation lithium-ion system design.” Moreover, the strategy for attaining next-generation performance must be commercially viable. SiILion’s cell technology, through utilization of lower-cost materials and manufacturing compatibility, will be 30% less costly ($/kWh) than state-of-the-art lithium-ion cells. By approaching the problem from the view of the battery cell system, SiILion achieves its breakthrough energy density and performance.

Promising results

With this philosophy in mind, the team at SiILion has undertaken the task of redesigning the old lithium-ion battery system, and their approach has already revealed some impressive achievements. SiILion has shown that when integrated into its unique system, state-of-the-art ‘nickel-rich’ cathodes and silicon anodes demonstrate a much-improved structural stability and safety, even at high temperatures. Dr Molina Piper also says that “SiILion has created the first viable 80% (by weight) silicon lithium-ion battery anode, capable of integration into standard electrode manufacturing processes.”

In fact, every silicon material that has been implemented into the SiILion system has shown an improvement in performance. “SiILion has worked with over two dozen types of silicon active materials (from over one dozen vendors), all showing marked improvement in capacity retention and coulombic efficiency when used in SiILion’s anode systems, regardless of the size or shape of silicon particles,” says Dr Evans. Of course, the team has its preferred material candidates, based on material stability and availability at scale. This ability to turn so many commercially available silicon materials into effective anodes could send shockwaves through the industry, making the current, over-engineered silicon anodes look overpriced by comparison.

The exact details of SiILion’s battery design remain confidential, but the problematic expansion effects that plague modern silicon anodes appear to have been overcome. As Dr Evans stated, the anodes display a minimal decrease in capacity after hundreds of charging and discharging cycles, and exhibit high ‘coulombic efficiencies’ – meaning that the charge is reversibly and effectively transferred through the system. This efficiency has been tested and proved with a variety of electrolyte materials, including coveted non-flammable electrolytes, which also shows the flexibility of the SiILion system.

Potential applications

The real strength of SiILion’s battery system is its simplicity and its ability to be customized. The SiILion anode design can be employed with conventional electrolyte materials and a range of cathode materials, or with non-flammable electrolytes and next-generation, high-energy cathode materials. Crude, low-cost silicon materials, such as large-particle ‘micron’ silicon materials, can be incorporated, or more exotic anode active materials, such as silicon nano-wires or nano-featured silicon/carbon composites, could be employed when the system requires higher power with faster charging capabilities. SiILion’s major focus lies on pairing its anode designs with ionic liquid electrolyte materials that can be used for applications that need the highest energy density with an emphasis on the utmost degree of safety.

The team at SiILion particularly stresses the high emphasis they put on safety when designing their next-generation lithium-ion batteries. As anyone who is aware of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco can attest, malfunctions involving lithium-ion cells have the potential to be catastrophic. If a faulty battery were scaled-up to the sizes required for electric vehicles, the consequences of malfunctioning would be even greater. With this in mind, SiILion’s use of a non-flammable electrolyte aims to eliminate the stigma that is associated with upscaling lithium-ion batteries to electric vehicle proportions.

In addition to the system’s versatility to accommodate the needs of various applications, the technology was specifically designed by SiILion so that it could be readily integrated into the existing infrastructure that is currently used to mass-produce lithium-ion batteries. This drastically reduces any costs that would be incurred when updating the current hardware, and makes the prospect of using this system commercially all the more attractive.

What the future holds for SiILion

“The SiILion team members have become experts in cell design around high-loading silicon anodes, and this has proved very valuable,” Dr Molina Piper states. “SiILion can integrate a wide range of silicon materials into its anode, to adapt to performance needs, and this also allows the SiILion cell design to realize the improvements that will arise due to new material introduction into the lithium-ion industry.”

So, building on the team’s experience and expertise, SiILion’s next endeavor will be to optimize the material properties in its system, and then scale up the technology to truly demonstrate its value for the needs of electric vehicles and other applications. The company is now manufacturing 2.5Ah prototypes, capable of achieving >300Wh/kg, a pre-requisite step to ensuring that SiILion’s technology is inserted successfully into the markets. SiILion has also worked with its suppliers and manufacturing partners to validate its claims of lower cost, projecting a 25-35% cost saving, on a $/kWh basis, relative to current technologies.

Along the way to enabling vehicle electrification, SiILion is targeting the application of its technology in unmanned vehicles, specialty applications and consumer electronics, with its current generation of prototypes designed to meet the requirements of these markets. With its business development efforts led by Acting CEO Ed Williams, SiILion’s first-generation prototype technology is under evaluation or requested for evaluation by numerous lithium-ion manufacturers and end users active in its target markets. Ultimately, through development projects already underway and in the pipeline, SiILion is targeting a battery prototype that is predicted to deliver roughly 390Wh/kg – far greater than any commercial lithium-ion battery currently available, and tantalizingly close to the energy density stated as optimal for electric vehicle applications.


SilLion’s presentation, ‘Advanced Li-Ion Chemistries that Leverage the Existing Manufacturing Infrastructure’ took place on September 12, 2017, at The Battery Show Conference 2017.

How Wildfire Smoke Might Help Cool the Pacific Northwest

Forest fires cooling effect

Supplied by Flickr; CC-BY 2.0 License

 

It might seem odd to think that a wildfire might actually be able to cool off a region, but in one sense, that’s actually true. It may not be the case at those locations where the fires are in progress and consuming large tracts of forest, wherever the wind blows them, but in those sections downwind of the blazes, it does have a curious effect.

The Canadian wildfires which are currently dominating parts of British Columbia are being borne along powerful winds which are blowing in a persistently southern direction, which means they are sweeping toward the northwestern United States like Washington and Oregon. A blanket of haze fairly thick in some areas and thinner in others is thus being carried into many of the cities in those northern states and is actually blocking out the rays of the sun to some extent. 

Sun Screen in Place

With this shield in place throughout July 2017, and for the upcoming weeks, it can be expected that a kind of sun screen will be shielding residents of those areas from the hottest rays of the sun, and will impart a slight cooling trend to the region. With sunlight being reflected off that haze back into earth’s atmosphere, much less reaches the surface to make residents uncomfortable. 

This setup is counteracting the normal effects of the high-pressure systems which have dominated the weather in the Pacific Northwest throughout the 2017 summer, and which have brought record-setting temperatures to the region in the process. These high-pressure air masses, which normally move through the area have instead stalled out, and have remained in place for long periods of time bringing heat-wave type temperatures to the entire region. But with the thick haze carried southward from British Columbia, much of the accompanying sunshine has been blocked and prevented from adding to the cumulative heating impact.

How long will wildfire smoke be in place?

That steady stream of wildfire smoke can be expected to keep pouring out of Canada for the next several weeks since the British Columbia wildfires are still far from being controlled. However, Canada is receiving help from other countries, notably New Zealand, which has sent at least 80 experienced firefighters to help quell the blazes in the western provinces. Additionally, as summer comes to an end and the weather cools, we hope that the changing of the seasons will provide Canada and the Northwestern United States with some relief.

Nature’s Packaging supports sustainable North American wood packaging and is committed to North American forest sustainability. Forest fires are integral to forest health and can be beneficial to the plants and wildlife within a forest.

Resources

Why so much smoke in Seattle from B.C. wildfires? http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/weather/why-so-much-smoke-from-b-c-fires-natures-air-conditioning-is-broken-weather-service-says/

Canadian wildfires are so bad you can see them from space: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/canada-wildfires-space-vancouver-visible-nasa-worldview-british-columbia-satellites-smoke-a7877046.html

 

Forty Years of Forklifts: Q&A With David Rowell

Following retirement from his most recent role as Senior Product Marketing Manager for Hyster UK earlier this year, David Rowell reflects on some of the developments he has witnessed over 44 years in the materials handling industry and shares his thoughts about the future.

Q: What was the industry like when you first started working with Hyster?

A: This was in 1972 and I was surprised to find an American owned multi-national company manufacturing forklift trucks only 10 miles from my home in Scotland.  I was employed as a Junior Sales Coordinator, supporting dealers from Canada to South Africa.  In the 70’s we introduced a new line of electric forklifts and for me this was the start of an exciting career that would last over 40 years.  If you had suggested this to me back then I would have called you crazy – but I stayed working for Hyster because they were an enlightened employer.  They were developing exciting new products for customers in heavy industrial applications.

Across the industry, mass markets were developing and Hyster was meeting this challenge. The design philosophy evolved to provide quality equipment at an affordable price, and this was firmly behind the development of both the Hyster® XL series and the electric forklift truck range.

Q: What key innovations came with the launch of the UK manufacturing operation in Craigavon?

A: We had changed our design philosophy, as well as manufacturing and distribution methods. Initially dedicated to the production of internal combustion engine (ICE) trucks, the operation in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, opened in 1981. The well-known Hyster® H40-60 XL (2-3 tonnes capacity) forklift truck was the first product manufactured there.

At the time, it was a popular truck aimed at companies in food and drink manufacturing and distribution. It set the standard for quality, robustness and functionality. It fast became a popular export truck, with around 3,000 H40-60 XL trucks made in approximately the first 20 months of production.

This began the “XL” era, and Hyster soon started to build other models at the factory including options with cushion tyres and pneumatic tyres, featuring power steering and fully automatic transmission as standard.  Ease of control, especially for inexperienced drivers, was of high priority in the design.

It wasn’t until 2009 that Craigavon became a mixed plant for manufacturing both ICE and battery products, with a major change to the layout of the plant to accommodate production of both lines. Today, there are over a dozen different types of 2.5 tonne Hyster® counterbalance trucks rolling off the Craigavon production line.

Q: How has the electric truck market changed over the last four decades?

A: The first range of Hyster® electric forklift trucks was launched in the 1970s. Numerous developments followed over the years, including the release of the XL electric series in the 1980s.

Perhaps the most significant change, was when we introduced the XN and XNT series of electric forklifts in 2008. These trucks continued the company’s strategy of modular design and innovation offering customers outstanding performance and significant savings on operational costs. They also cemented Hyster as a world-class provider of low energy consumption trucks, with reduced maintenance requirements, minimised operating costs and zero emissions.

Today, a varied range of Hyster® electric trucks is available, with powerful, robust and high capacity trucks, alongside small, three-wheel electric forklifts which are among the most energy efficient in their class.

Q: Would you agree that the industry seems less product driven? How did this evolution come about?

A: In the 1990s, the focus for Hyster® trucks shifted to benefits for the operator.  Because operator comfort has an impact on productivity, efficiency, and morale, ergonomic design was given greater importance. With the XM product, Hyster set a new ergonomic standard. Better seating, lower noise levels and new ergonomically designed operator controls were prominent design features.

This was the start of the company’s solutions-based approach, that focused on solutions to meet the real needs of the customer, rather than just the product.

Q: What other focuses have changed in the market? 

A: Energy efficiency, economy and reducing emissions have become a higher priority across the industry in recent years, with updated legislation for emissions and a greater consideration of environmental impact. In the 1990s, the XM design took these important points into consideration. Featuring the Perkins diesel engine, it offered high power with lower fuel consumption and greater efficiency, which also helped to reduce operating costs.

Q: What changes did the new millennium bring about within the industry? 

A: In the new millennium, Hyster began working more closely with dealers to offer more choices to customers with application-focused solutions. Modular product designs had helped to speed up production, whilst maintaining consistent quality, as well as offering various configurations, which further enhanced the available options to suit customer needs.

In 2005 the Hyster® Fortens® FT series was brought on to the production line. This has been the premium brand for the last decade, offering a wide range of choices to customers.  This range of ICE trucks provides a premium option to suit any application, with everything from the compact H1.6-2.0FTS to the H4.0 -5.5FT being produced at the Craigavon plant for customers in Europe.

The Fortens® range also offers excellent customisation options. Configurations are available to match specific application needs, including those with attachment usage in the paper, manufacturing, recycling, beverage, metals or construction industry.

Q: How would you summarise the key focuses for Hyster in the current market?

A: I think one of the most important changes over the years is the focus on the application. Hyster has developed a clear understanding of how the choice of a forklift can significantly affect the overall performance and cost of an operation.

The tasks performed by the trucks and the application itself drives the customer’s product choice, so Hyster is giving customers application-centric, tailor-made solutions. This helps to overcome specific daily challenges while suiting all of the different aspects of an operation – cost, fuel efficiency, low emissions, and productivity over time. The focus is very much on what can be done for the individual customer.

One of the last Hyster projects I was involved with was helping to bring the new Hyster® XT forklift truck to market in 2016. The XT is a new cost-effective product that sets a new standard. It still offers class-leading features, some shared with the Fortens® range, using proven engines and transmissions to deliver the right performance that meets the requirements of the majority of users, based on their application needs.

Hyster® forklifts are built for all types of operations, from high intensity at full capacity to standard, everyday use.  Often the trucks look similar, but it is what is going on inside that really counts.  Continual development is key to the Hyster® product offering. The company is enhancing its already wide range of products and I look forward to seeing where it will go from this point.

Q: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

A: I enjoyed my 44 years working within this industry immensely and it was great to work with Hyster, a company which is collaborating with customers in meaningful ways to this day.

About David Rowell

David Rowell joined Hyster in October 1972 and worked with the company for 44 years. His roles included Product Sales and Marketing, Sales and Distribution Manager and Operations.  David also served 4 years as president of the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA), where he played an active part in shaping the industry over the last 20 years.

Marking his career of more than 40 years with Hyster, David received a lifetime achievement award at the 2017 FLTA (Fork Lift Truck Association) Awards in March 2017.

Source: www.hyster.eu

Forklift Battery Handling And Maintenance Best Practices

Forklift batteries cost $1,500 to $5,000 a piece. So, not giving importance to the proper maintenance might result in great financial loss or higher operating expenses in your business. Nearly all lead-acid forklift batteries provide approximately 2,000 charge cycles. This means a battery normally lasts around 5 years. But to have the maximum service life of a forklift battery, you need to take proper care of it. Without proper maintenance, your forklift battery may not even last 5 years. You can expect to use a battery longer than 5 years if you strictly follow the forklift battery handling and maintenance best practices.

Following are some useful battery maintenance and handling best practices and tips that you should follow:

1. Charge the Battery the Proper Way

People tend to charge forklift batteries whenever they feel convenient, known as “opportunity charging.” But this is a poor practice as forklift batteries should be charged only to certain degrees and at certain times. You should charge the battery until it is full every time it dips below 30 percent charge. It is important to note that both undercharging and overcharging a forklift battery can considerably lessen its life span. The best way to charge is having a fixed charge cycle and not interrupting the cycle. Never charge a forklift battery twice a day as it can cut its service life in half.

2. Regularly Equalize the Batteries

You must regularly equalize wet or flooded cell batteries. When the battery acid gets more concentrated at the bottom of the battery, the equalizing process reverses the chemical stratification. Acid and water stratification make it harder for the battery to hold a charge. Proper equalizing eliminates sulfate crystals from the plates of the battery and rebalances the electrolyte concentration. Equalizing is possible only when a battery charger has an equalizing setting. While maintenance specifications can vary from battery to battery, most batteries require equalizing almost every 5 to 10 charging cycles. Make sure you check the specifications before initiating the equalization process.

3. Frequently Check Fluid Levels

To work properly, forklift batteries require the perfect amount of water. Every 5 charge cycles, open up the battery to check the fluid levels. Check 2 to 3 battery cells and make sure that there is sufficient fluid to cover up the plastic element of the battery. In case if you are not sure checking only 2-3 cells, check all the cells and be sure about the fluid level. If you find that there is not sufficient fluid, you need to add water.

4. Maintain Correct Water Levels

Roughly every 10 charge cycles, you need to check the water level and add water to maintain right water level. Just top off the fluid in the battery and add sufficient water to cover the plastic element protector of the battery.

Just like not adding water when needed is harmful, adding extra water can be equally harmful. It is important to note that maintenance-free batteries are required to be topped off. Make sure you top off the battery only when it is fully charged. Adding water before charging the battery is a common mistake. Between 5 and 7 on the pH scale is the recommended limits for impurities. Remember, putting impure water into the battery can lead to damage of the battery.

5. Keep Forklift Batteries at a Safe Temperature

The temperature not exceeding 45℃ (113℉) is regarded as safe temperature to keep forklift batteries. For optimal cooking, try to ensure enough air circulation in and around the battery compartment. Charging a battery in extreme heat or cold can damage the battery and its service life. If you want to be 100% sure about the perfect temperature to keep and charge the battery, contact the manufacturer because the temperature can vary from battery to battery and model to model.

6. Have A Separate Battery Room

Having a designated area for charging the forklift battery is an OSHA-recommended best practice. Keep the room well ventilated. Make sure there is no open flame or smoking near batteries.

7. Move the Batteries the Right Away

As forklift batteries are quite heavy, do not allow a single person to move a forklift battery. Use special equipment such as walkie pallet jack equipped with a transfer carriage to move the battery.

8. Clean The Battery

At least once a month clean the battery with battery cleaner or warm water. Not cleaning the battery can cause faster self-discharge, voltage tracking, tray corrosion and even affect the electronics within the forklift. Some manufacturers waive the warranty if they find forklift batteries unclear.

9. Never Forget Worker Safety

It is recommended that the workers wear steel toe work boots to ensure their safety while handling a forklift battery. Having necessary arrangements for eye and hand washing nearby too are recommended to avoid health risks of the workers. Workers must wear chemical-resistant gears as well. Lead-acid battery cells contain a large volume of sulfuric acid, which can be the reason for serious chemical burns on human skin.

10. Miscellaneous

Never keep any metal objects on batteries as batteries are electrically live all the time. Metal objects can catch electricity and cause accidents. Always allow the battery enough time to cool before recharge or discharge. Never add acid or any other solutions to the battery. And never allow unauthorized representatives to service the battery. To prevent arcs and sparks, always turn off the charger before disconnecting the battery.

In a Class of Their Own: an Overview of Lift Truck Classification


A review of the 7 forklift classifications.

Class 4 forklift internal combustion

Wikimedia Commons

 

forklift history,history of lift truck

By 1927, forklifts had evolved to include back tilt. Source: Palletizer Magazine.

These days, forklift trucks are integral to material handling in manufacturing plants, distribution centers, and other operations. The first ever lift trucks were developed in the early 1900s. In fact, early models didn’t have forks at all. They had a single lift plate. As such, the earliest skids did not have a center stringer to accommodate the early lift truck. But forklifts have improved significantly over the years. Those in use today have evolved tremendously from those early beginnings.

Modern day forklifts have many different power options including electrical battery, liquid propane gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG), gasoline, and diesel. There are many different types of lift trucks suited to different lift operations. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  classifies lift trucks into 7 different types based on their power options and purpose of uses. Following are those 7 different classes of lift trucks:

Class I- Electric Motor Rider Trucks

Used in versatile applications, electric motor rider trucks are equipped with either pneumatic tires or cushions. The pneumatic-tired lift trucks are good fits for use in dry outdoor applications. On the other hand, the cushion-tired motor rider trucks are made for indoor use on smooth surfaces.

Powered by electric batteries, these lift trucks use transistor motor controllers to move and hoist functions. Air quality factors are important considerations when choosing an electric motor rider truck for indoor use. These lift vehicles are mostly used in storage facilities and loading docks.

Most of these lift trucks are counterbalanced rider type. Three Wheel Electric Trucks also fall under this category.

Class II – Narrow Aisle Electric Motor Trucks

Class 2 forklift

Wikipedia Commons

Made for use in narrow aisle operations, narrow aisle trucks allow operators to maximize their use of storage space. Because they can operate efficiently in narrow passageways, storage racks can be set closer together than they could be in a conventional facility, providing greater storage capacity. Reach type outriggers, order pickers, side loaders and turret trucks are examples of narrow aisle electric motor trucks.

Class III – Hand-Rider or Electric Motor Hand Trucks

These are comparatively smaller capacity lift trucks that run on industrial electric batteries. As the name suggests, this kind of truck is hand controlled. The lift controls of the truck are mounted on top of the tiller and the operator moves the tiller side to side to navigate the truck. They are frequently used for palletized loads both in low and high lift operations.  

Class IV – Cushion Tired Internal Combustion Engine Trucks

Used indoors on smooth dry surfaces, these lift trucks are used for transporting palletized loads. These forklifts are commonly used in storage and load areas. As cushion-tired lift trucks are lower to the ground than pneumatic-tired lift trucks, cushion tired internal combustion engine trucks are used mainly in low clearance applications.  

Class V- Pneumatic Tired Internal Combustion Engine Trucks

Most commonly used in warehouses, these lift trucks are used both indoors and outdoors for many different types of applications ranging from a single unit load to a 40-foot container. These lift trucks are available for use with compressed natural gas, diesel, gasoline and LPG as well.

Class VI- Internal Combustion and Electric Engine Combo Tractors

Very versatile in operations, these lift trucks have options to power using both internal combustion and electric engines. For indoor use, electric power is preferred. For outdoor use, the powerful internal combustion engine is used.

Class VII- Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks

These are quite large lift trucks with huge floatation type tires. These trucks are capable of working on difficult outdoor surfaces. They are quite frequently used in large construction sites for lifting building materials. Auto recyclers and lumber years too frequently use rough terrain forklift trucks.

 

Should I Buy New Or Used Forklifts?


When deciding to buy either a new or used forklift, there are several factors to weigh.

Wikipedia Commons. Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEMA

Forklifts are expensive machines, so do your homework before you make a buying decision. Given an unlimited budget, everyone would like to have a shiny, new forklift with the latest technology, but for a lot of operations, the decision of whether to go with new or used mobile equipment is a difficult one. There is no easy and straightforward answer to the question of whether to buy new or procure a used unit. Take the time to assess the pros and cons of both options before you make a final decision.

The Cost Difference between New and Used Forklifts

Unfortunately, budgets are often constrained, and people look for ways to cut the cost. Going for a used forklift can offer significant price savings may turn out to be an ill-advised move if you end up paying too much for maintenance and a machine that is only going to have a short remaining service life. Let’s have a look at the price difference:

An electric warehouse forklift with standard capacity like 5000 pounds will cost you $15K-$25K. You need to spend another $2k to $5k for a battery and its charger. A brand new internal combustion (IC) forklift with similar capacity can cost as much as $30k. A high-end forklift that can handle even 35,000 pounds at a time can cost more than $100k.  

On the other hand, a used but well refurbished used electric forklift with 3000-pound capacity will cost $5k-$10k. A similar capacity IC forklift will cost $10k-$15k. So, going for a used forklift, you can expect to have 30% to 50% cost savings. But cost saving should not be the only factor when deciding whether to buy new or used forklifts.

Pros And Cons Of Buying A New Forklift

Pros

  • Buying a new forklift allows you to have the newest and latest model in the market.
  • You pay the listed price with no need for bargaining.
  • A new forklift should last longer and handle long hours at an efficient pace under proper maintenance.
  • Higher overhead.
  • All the parts of the forklift will be brand new contrary to used forklifts.  
  • You get precisely what you want.
  • You get a 12-36 months warranty.

Cons

  • Very expensive.
  • Financing, purchasing can involve lengthy paperwork

Pros And Cons Of Buying A Used Forklift

Pros

  • Huge cost saving (30%-50% less than brand new forklifts).
  • Quicker purchasing process.
  • Quicker delivery.

Cons

  • You normally don’t get a forklift as per your desired specifications and forgo some features.
  • You don’t get the newest model in the market.
  • The price valuation of the used forklift is important. If you do it wrong, you might lose big in the bargaining.
  • Less overhead.
  • Won’t work as efficiently as a new one.
  • Higher maintenance cost.
  • No or very limited warranty.

When To Buy Used Forklifts

According to experts, buying a used forklift is a good idea if the required daily use of the forklift is less than 4 hours. If you plan on using a forklift for more than 4 hours a day, it might not perform well for long enough. Still, the used forklift needs to be in good condition. It requires exceptional valuation and negotiation skills to buy a used forklift. Again, there remains the risk of buying from an uncertified seller. Buying a forklift from an individual is always risky. So, consider finding a certified dealer before you proceed. Availability of used and refurbished forklifts is another important consideration.

When To Buy New Forklifts

As mentioned before, when the required daily use of the forklift is more than 4 hours, you consider a new forklift. The 12-36 month warranty is a very important advantage that is money well spent for such heavy use.  

 

Walk This Way: Pedestrian Safety In Forklift Operations

Forklift warning lights

Every year, more than 68,400 forklift accidents take place in the United States. Far too many of them injure pedestrians. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) report reveals that nearly 20 percent of all forklift accidents involve pedestrians being struck by the forklifts. With proper awareness and pedestrian training, the rate of accidents can be significantly reduced.

Having formal forklift training is an OSHA requirement. While OSHA does not specially address forklift pedestrian training, the OSHA General Duty Clause instructs companies to take all the precautionary steps to protect all employees. This includes ensuring that workers who are exposed to forklifts and lift trucks in operation receive the instruction necessary to preserve their safety on the job.

Very often, warehouse managers do not realize the significance of training pedestrians exposed to any kind of lifting operation. When the pedestrian is ignorant of basic safety precautions around lift trucks, the chances of an accident involving the forklift and pedestrian increase.

Common Forklift/Pedestrian Accident Situations

Following are two common situations accidents involving pedestrians and forklifts take place:
Pedestrian Came Too Close To Lift Trucks  There is no way a collision involving a pedestrian can take place if the pedestrian does not come within a close proximity of a forklift. Maintaining at least a 4-foot safety zone is highly recommended when the forklift is running. This precaution can lessen the risk of the lift truck driving over the pedestrian’s foot.

But the actual safety zone can be much longer than just 4 feet. In the employee or pedestrian awareness programs, companies should let the pedestrians know that the back end of lift trucks can swing very quickly to the side. Normally, forklifts that comes with elevated forks necessitate proportionately higher safety clearance. The horizontal length of a load is another important consideration. A long load like a 20-foot long lumber package will need a proper safety clearance especially when the lift truck turns.
Pedestrian Did Not Notice The Lift Truck In Operation  In many cases, pedestrians don’t see the lift truck in operation. Blind corners and varying degrees of intersections can be reasons for not seeing the lift truck. So, pedestrians should be aware of those to be safe from accidents. Pedestrians may not hear the lift truck in operation as different power sources of forklifts determine the sound generated in operation. For instance, electric battery powered lift trucks can be very quiet, the internal combustion lift trucks can be very loud. So, if not well-aware of different sounds generated by different forklifts, a pedestrian might equate a lack of noise with the absence of a lift truck in operation.

Ways To Increase Pedestrian Safety In Forklift Operations

The frequency of forklift accidents involving pedestrians can be significantly reduced by providing awareness training, using right safety equipment and better traffic management.

Training and Awareness for Pedestrians  Proper pedestrian awareness and training should not take much time and effort. First of all, pedestrians need to be aware of the fact that lift trucks can suddenly appear around the blind corners. The training can work as a reminder to the pedestrian to stop, listen and look carefully when working or staying around the blind corners. Pedestrians should always expect a sudden appearance of a lift truck.

Before crossing a forklift’s path, a pedestrian must maintain eye contact with the forklift driver. When the eye contact is not possible or difficult like when crossing the path behind the forklift, giving the driver a verbal alert is mandatory. Alertness and communication are crucial. When crossing behind a forklift that may back up, be sure to make verbal communication with the operator before crossing, or to wait at a safe distance until it has finished backing up.

Other important safety rules that need to be included in pedestrian training and awareness programs include never riding on a forklift truck unless the vehicle is specially designed to accommodate a passenger, keeping clear of a forklift and loading swing radius. Never walk under a load.

Traffic Management  Safety professionals recommend the creation of separate routes for pedestrians made easily noticeable through painted lines and signage. Having physical barriers to keep forklifts from entering pedestrian-only routes can be a very effective solution. If having physical barriers is difficult or not possible, avoiding forklift use in areas with high levels of pedestrian activity can be a good solution. Having and maintaining safety rules for both pedestrians and lift trucks are very important.

Safety Equipment  Safety best practices dictate that pedestrians should wear a highly visible vest step for improving visibility. Having and using forklift truck horns, adding warning lights, or travel alarms are good measures as well. The use of convex mirrors at intersections can improve pedestrian safety by providing the pedestrians with better chances of seeing the forklifts in operation.

Conclusion

While the training of forklift operators is mandatory, facility operators are also required to protect the safety of pedestrians who traverse in proximity to material handling equipment. Take care to consider the safety of pedestrians who might not be obvious such as sales, maintenance or clerical personnel, supplier representatives or contractors working at the site.

Note: The information provided above is intended only to provide general guidance. For specific regulatory requirements in your jurisdiction, please contact a local safety professional or appropriate compliance professional.