High-frequency battery room upgrades
The majority of the innovation in the battery market is centered on charging solutions, according to Steve Spaar, marketing director for EnerSys. Although developments in fast-charge and opportunity-charge technology have lured many operations away from the centralized battery room model, says Spaar, developments have been made to update and improve battery rooms through the use of high-frequency charging systems.
While fast-charge and opportunity-charge systems offer the appeal of decentralized charging and corresponding productivity gains, Spaar says those technologies are not ideal for three-shift operations.
“You can’t run a battery 24 hours a day without a cooling period and expect it to last more than six months,” he says. “These operations will still need a central battery room.”
High-frequency chargers are upwards of 90% efficient, says Spaar, as opposed to the 60% to 85% efficiencies of traditional systems. The efficiencies are often significant enough to generate an ROI in under two years, he says.
The California Energy Commission is developing efficiency standards for industrial battery applications, a move motivated by the state’s high electricity rates, says Spaar. On the national level, the Environmental Protection Agency is working to include efficient industrial charging systems in the Energy Star program, he adds. If enacted, the program would represent the first non-retail line of Energy Star products.
As they continue to refine traditional technologies, battery companies like EnerSys continue to research fuel cell and lithium ion technology, but Spaar says the efforts are not big focuses for R&D resources. Although the technology has been proven outside the industrial and materials handling sectors, he says, the value propositions in those areas are simply not there.
“But we are continuing to research these technologies when the time comes that they make sense in motive power,” says Spaar.
In the meantime, upstarts like fuel cell technology have few advantages, he says. Productivity gains from decentralized hydrogen fueling stations are easily matched by fast-charge or opportunity-charge systems, says Spaar. As for the environmentally friendly angle, Spaar notes that 92% of an average lift truck battery is recyclable, and 95% of lift truck batteries are recycled.
“In fact, it is the most recycled product,” says Spaar. “Next is aluminum cans at about a 50% recycle rate.”