Recharge your batteries with a spa treatment!

Effective management of truck batteries can save a lot of money – so give your batteries a bit of pampering! By Gian Schiava

The 8-8-8 concept

We are going to be investigating how effective management of battery resources can extend their life and ensure that they deliver optimum performance, all the time. A bit of TLC (tender loving care) works wonders!

In normal use, batteries in, per example, a manufacturing site, would probably last the standard 6 years or so. To make the most of this resource, Cat Lift Trucks engineers developed years ago what they called the ‘8-8-8’ concept. A battery works for a full 8-hour shift, then it undergoes the 8 hour recharging cycle. Finally, the battery is given 8 hours of complete relaxation, and this is a key element in the whole project. This 8-8-8 has proven to be very successful for many years.
Today, we would like to share with you this 8-8-8 concept in more detail. Batteries are an essential part of your investment and it’s essential to get the best out of it.

Deep clean, recharge, relax

A cycle of treatment that looks like the equivalent of a VIP spa treatment for batteries begins when it is decided that charging is needed. The battery is first measured and is then completely cleaned, to remove exterior dirt, any corrosion and acid residues. It also receives proper maintenance, such as refilling with clean water, cell replacement and repair or replacement of a broken main connector or cable. When this is completed, batteries are brought into the so-called nursery room to be charged. This area adheres to the highest safety standards, processes and behaviours being reinforced with warning and instruction signs everywhere. A special extraction installation operating with small openings in the walls behind the batteries keeps the air around the units clean. After being fully charged, the battery moves to a rest room, where it can enjoy the 8 hours of rest necessary for full revitalisation.

More than a nice idea

At first sight, it might be thought to be a waste of time to let the batteries wait so long before they are returned to work. In many companies, recharged batteries are put out to work again immediately. The explanation is that the process of charging and unloading is a chemical process and one that benefits from rest from time to time. Even in the apparent quiet time of loading, the chemical process is working as electrical energy is converted back to chemical energy again, which creates heat and other reactions. Letting the batteries rest for a while after charging positively affects battery life.
Batteries should always be fully discharged and recharged again. Ideally, a battery should discharge down to 20% before being recharged. Battery life is around 6 years, or 1500 loading cycles. Hook batteries onto a charging station too soon and you will end up with a ‘lazy’ battery, one that will release its energy faster and faster, resulting in a shortened life. Certainly, there are new technologies that fight this process of ageing and there are also systems that use air bubbles to enable earlier charging (e.g., at 60%) without the negative effects. But that does not take away that rest is good for a battery.

Amazing results

All of the above sounds logical but the question is always: does it really deliver positive results? Yes, it does, is the answer. One remarkable fact to note from the example of a manufacturing site is that has extended almost three times the normal battery lifetime. The initial investment in some extra batteries has resulted in significant savings, by hugely reducing the need for replacement units. The battery management process requires great discipline as it is so tempting and so very easy to take a battery that is fully charged but resting, but the benefits are clear.

Lesson learned

While this example may be a special, or particular case, it still demonstrates the value of wider, more effective battery management. It is a process that can be implemented in any company that has a fleet of electric forklifts. It requires an initial investment in additional batteries, as well as a battery recharging area that adheres to the highest standards. Fleet operators may also want to invest in initial training of staff, in order to ensure that they understand why certain activities – or lack of activity, in case of battery rest – need to be undertaken. Any professional supplier of materials handling products can help set up this system. It may sound a bit hard to swallow, but setting up this VIP treatment for your batteries will save you money in the end. It is well worth asking about.

Top 5 tips for a longer forklift battery life:

+ Always discharge the battery to around 20% power level before recharging. This stops it turning into a ‘lazy battery’, which will discharge quicker and quicker.

+ If some batteries are not being used for a while, use a ‘battery jogger’, a device on your charging station that will keep the battery in shape with regular charge/ discharge cycles.

– Don’t cut spending on maintenance; it will pay for itself with improved efficiency and longer battery life.

+ Make sure the charging area adheres to all safety standards. Protect both your staff and products.

+ Give the batteries time for R&R-rest and recuperation. You will be rewarded with a longer and more productive life from your batteries.

Batteries are given 8 hours of total rest
Batteries are given 8 hours of total rest
Battery ‘teenager’: The factory in Almere is using batteries dating from 1994 – 17 years ago!
Battery ‘teenager’: The factory in Almere is using batteries dating from 1994 – 17 years ago!