Battery Selection for Longer Life and Greater Reliability

Guest Blog by John Connell, Crown Battery

Batteries power the majority of material handling machines, from forklifts to aerial work platforms, boom lifts, and more. And it’s never been more important to keep them online.

Even a brief downtime can eat up thousands in lost productivity, expensive delays, and contract penalties…

So it’s crucial to know which features and variations to look for: from design and engineering decisions to manufacturing techniques, quality control, and material choices.

In this article, you’ll learn about the key criteria to ensure your batteries run better and last longer.

And you’ll learn what spec sheets don’t tell – the hard-to-spot manufacturing differences and testing procedures that can extend life and maximize uptime, or contribute to early battery failure.

Which batteries are best for most applications? 

The right batteries will offer longer life, lower maintenance, and higher performance – with reliability that helps avoid downtime and early equipment failure.

While there’s no one-size-for-everyone battery, lead batteries are the best fit for many material handling applications. Key reasons for their market share include long life, high reliability, simple installation, and strong power density. In additional, lead batteries’ per-kWh cost is 50%-90% less than other technologies.

Lead batteries have proven safety and reliability records of more than 100 years. The U.S. EPA lists lead batteries as the most recyclable item in North America – more recyclable than an aluminum can.

Flooded lead (FLA) and absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries dominate – here’s how to choose

FLA batteries are long lasting, simple to maintain, affordable, and reliable. They require routine maintenance using PPE, along with ventilation.

AGM batteries were created for the military to boost reliability. AGMs offer zero-maintenance, spill-proof sealed designs with extended service life and high current delivery. And they allow rapid charging up to 5 times faster than FLAs. AGM batteries save so much time and money on maintenance that they offset additional manufacturing costs and slightly lower capacity.

Now that you know which battery type is right for you, the next step is pulling back the curtain on how construction and material quality can boost longevity, performance, and reliability/ease of maintenance.

Which features are critical when selecting lead batteries?

  • Gravity casting removes grid impurities – and increases battery life and reliability.
  • Thicker, heavier plates reduce corrosion and provide material for chemical reactions.
  • Computer-controlled curing ovens, lead oxide mixing, and formation charging maximize performance and eliminate failure modes.
  • Automated plate wrapping and advanced separator technology prevent short-circuits in plate.
  • Additional active material (generally, recycled lead) enhances capacity, reliability, and battery life. Beware companies that cut corners on active material, which comprises 60% to 80% of the battery’s cost.
  • Automated pasting instantly optimizes dozens of variables such as flow rate, temperature, and ingredient ratios. Thus, active material is more reliable and consistent.
  • Cast-on-Strap (COS) manufacturing fuses battery plates at their optimal temperature – and allows for up to 4,000 adjustments, versus just 40 for manual welding. COS reduces maintenance and corrosion, improves reliability, and extends battery life.
  • Environmentally responsible battery production, including use of recycled lead and renewable energy during protection, helps conserve resources and reduce material costs.

In each of these instances, superior batteries are made not by cutting corners on critical materials like lead, but by combining preferred materials with more advanced manufacturing processes and quality control.

Quality control helps ensure your batteries last longer and perform better

Done right, QC takes advantage of the materials and production techniques to improve consistency and precision, too.

  • Robotic welding and heat-sealing improve durability and reliability
  • Vision systems supplement hands-on and automatic tests, inspect parts to isolate defects humans might miss
  • Machines test for short circuits and augment technicians’ checks• Batteries are tested from the production line – not the lab
  • All manufacturing facilities use the same methods and machinery 

To find out more about materials and manufacturing techniques in your next batteries, consult battery manufacturers’ websites or call your distributor.

With this crash course, you’ll know which features to seek out – and which to steer clear of – to maximize reliability and get superior performance for years and years.

John Connell is the Vice President of Crown Battery’s SLI Products Group. Crown Battery manufactures all its 99%-recyclable lead-acid batteries at its ISO-9001:2008-certified plant in Fremont, Ohio. The plant uses COS; computerized oxide and paste mixing; vision systems; and gravity casting of the industry’s heaviest plates.