The major factors responsible for the growth of the global lithium market are the increasing number of applications in battery-powered equipment and the need for cleaner energy sources. Increased demand is created by various industries, particularly the electric vehicle/auto industry and the energy storage system industry. Ongoing research and innovations in lithium applications are expected to provide opportunities for further growth. Industrial lithium batteries have been gaining popularity in the USA over the last decade. Lithium power packs are used across many industries including material-handling equipment, defense, and aerospace; at medical, telecom, and data centers; for marine and power storage applications; and in heavy mining and construction equipment.

This review will cover one segment of this big market: batteries for material-handling equipment (MHE) like forklifts, lift trucks, and pallet jacks. It was originally published by Anton Zhukov on Medium.

MHE lithium battery market segment

The segment of industrial batteries for MHE includes various types of forklifts and lift trucks, and some adjacent segments, like airport ground support equipment (GSE), industrial cleaning equipment (sweepers and scrubbers), tugs, personnel carriers, etc.

The MHE market segment is very different from other lithium battery applications like automotive, public transportation and other on- and off-highway EVs.

  • Forklifts often have to withstand high vibration due to the widespread use of cushion tires. These demand a more rigid design than pneumatic tires.
  • MHE is employed in multi-shift operations spanning 18-20 hours daily, often in extreme ambient temperatures (very hot in some cases and very cold inside coolers and freezers).
  • Forklifts rarely leave facilities with easy access to power and charging stations.
  • A high level of customization is required for numerous unique forklift types, resulting in a low production volume for each individual battery model.
  • The still-low adoption rate of superior lithium technology is the reason why many MHE dealers and maintenance companies do not offer lithium battery service. This is why a battery manufacturer’s own service network is so important in this segment.

Size and growth of the lithium forklift battery market

According to the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), around 65% of lift trucks sold today are electric (the rest are internal combustion engine-powered). In other words, two-thirds of all new material handling equipment is battery-powered.

There is no consensus today as to what share lithium technology has already gained from the incumbent lead-acid technology in the US and Canada. Estimates vary between 7% and 10% of the total number of the new industrial batteries sold, growing from zero in a mere 5-6 years.

The benefits of lithium vs. lead-acid batteries have been tested and proven by major companies across all industries with material handling operations: logistics and 3PL, retail, manufacturing, paper and packaging, metals, lumber, food and beverage, cold storage, medical supplies distribution, you name it. Industry experts are speculating about the growth rate over the next few years (estimated CAGR 27%), but all agree—the adoption of lithium will continue to accelerate, similarly to what we see in the passenger EV market (enabled by similar lithium technology). By 2028, the lithium segment may constitute 48% of all new forklift batteries.

Lead-acid technology still drives forklift engineering

Lead-acid battery technology for electric forklifts is over 100 years old. No wonder electric-powered forklifts were (and still are) built around lead-acid batteries, which determined the format of a power pack and the whole design of a lift truck. Lead-acid technology’s key characteristics are the low voltage (24–48V), high current, and a massive weight of the battery, and in most cases, the latter is used as part of the counterweight to balance the load on the forks.

Market transformation pending

MHE continues to be lead-acid-centric, and that determines the engineering design of the equipment, sales and service channels, and other specifics of the market. However, lithium conversion has started and has already proven its potential to make material handling more efficient and sustainable. With economic and sustainability factors driving the switch to lithium technology, the transformation is already underway. Many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) including Toyota, HYG, Jungheinrich and others have launched their first lithium-powered forklifts.

Top 7 forklift battery brands in America pioneering the transformation of MHE

This review covers a few of the most prominent brands in the USA and Canada competing for the growing share of lithium forklift batteries in North and South America. These are the 7 Li-ion forklift battery brands that are driving the adoption of lithium technology by customers and forklift manufacturers (OEMs).

  • Electrovaya
  • Flux Power
  • Green Cubes
  • Navitas
  • OneCharge
  • Stromcore
  • Triathlon
Review of Lithium Forklift Battery Brands
Read the full review of lithium forklift battery brands below

Advantages of lithium forklift batteries

All lithium-ion battery suppliers discuss the advantages of Li-ion batteries vs lead-acid batteries: greater fleet uptime and overall growth in operational efficiency, life cycles that are 2–3 times longer, zero daily maintenance, low lifetime cost, zero pollutants or exhaust, etc.

Several companies offer battery models suitable for a variety of applications, such as work in cold storage areas.

There are two main types of lithium-ion batteries on the market, the key difference being the cathode material: lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC). The former are generally less expensive, safer, and more stable, while the latter have higher energy density per kilo.

Review criteria

This review covers a few basic criteria: company history and product line, number of models and OEM compatibility, product features, service network, and additional information.

A company’s history and product line illustrate its core expertise and the brand’s focus on a specific market segment, or the opposite—a lack of such focus. The number of models is a good proxy for product availability—it tells how likely you are to find a compatible Li-ion battery model for your specific material-handling equipment (and how fast a given company is developing new models). CAN integration of a battery with both a host lift truck and a charger is essential for a plug-and-play approach, an important requirement in many applications. Some brands are not fully transparent yet on their CAN protocol. Product features and additional information describe the differences and commonalities of the battery brands.

Our review does not include “integrated” lithium battery brands, which are sold together with the lift truck. Buyers of these products cannot choose a battery capacity, regardless of their specific application.

We did not include some of the imported Asian brands, as they have not yet built a significant customer base in the US market. Although they offer very attractive prices, they fall short of expectations on very important criteria: maintenance, support, and service. The lack of industry integration with OEM manufacturers, dealers, and service centers prevents these brands from becoming a viable solution for serious buyers, though they can indeed be a good option for small or temporary operations.

All Li-ion batteries are created sealed, clean, and safe. This is especially important when handling foodstuff, medicines, and electronics. However, choosing a Li-ion battery can be quite complicated. You can read more on How to Choose the Right Forklift Battery on the Selector page of the OneCharge website.

Review of lithium forklift battery brands

Brands are listed in alphabetical order.

Electrovaya

Manufacturing location: Ontario, Canada

History: The Electrovaya company was founded in 1996, initially researching lithium-ion technologies, and started offering energy solutions for electric cars in 2002. The company has been making Li-ion batteries for industrial lift trucks since 2017.

Product line: Li-ion batteries for material handling equipment; Class I, II, and III lift trucks;  autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs); and stationary and transportable energy storage systems. Electrovaya’s stationary energy storage systems are used by Scottish and Southern Energy and at Ryerson University in Downtown Toronto. Electrovaya uses NMC chemistry cells with patented ceramic separators.

Number of models: There are over 30 models of Li-ion batteries made by Electrovaya. The batteries are available with an output voltage of 24, 36, 48, or 80 volts.

CAN integration: Raymond and Toyota MH

Level of customization: Modular approach enables storage capacity to be tailored to an application’s specific requirements.

Service network and product after-sales support: N/A

Data-based products and infrastructure: Evision is a cloud-based remote monitoring system that can track battery operational usage in lift trucks in real time.

Additional information: Full kit (battery and compatible charger). Cold storage solutions.

Flux Power

Manufacturing location: California, USA

History: The Flux Power company was founded in 2009. Initially, the company produced batteries for electric cars and since 2014 it has manufactured lithium-ion batteries for industrial applications.

Product line: Li-ion batteries for industrial forklifts and airport ground support equipment.

Number of models: Flux Power offers 6 models of LFP (lithium iron phosphate) chemistry batteries in cases fitted for Class I, II, and III MHE. Flux Power offers 24-, 36-, 48-, and 80-volt options for all models.

CAN integration: Clark, Crown (Class III), Toyota MH

Level of customization: N/A

Service network and product after-sales support: N/A

Data-based products and infrastructure: “SKY BMS” data system collects the data from individual batteries through Wi-Fi at the facility, then sends it to the cloud through a cellular connection. Customers have access to their data through a web interface.

Key features: Lift Pack X-series batteries are designed as a modular system that includes up to 4 blocks of battery cells, each of them containing up to 7kWh of power. This allows the battery system to be configured according to the user’s needs and MHE application (with steps of 7kW).

Additional information: Full kit (battery and compatible charger). Cold storage solutions. Flux Power claims that more than 9000 batteries that it produced are still in the field.

Green Cubes

Manufacturing location: Indiana, USA

History: The Green Cubes company was founded in 1986. Initially, the company produced chargers for lead-acid batteries. In 2008 it started manufacturing Li-ion batteries for medical carts, and transitioned to Li-ion batteries for electric lift trucks in 2013.

Product line: Li-ion batteries for industrial forklifts, airport ground support equipment, medical carts, and various medical in-base power subsystems.

Number of models: The company offers 22 models of LiFePO4 (LFP) batteries for Class I, II, and III lift trucks. Green Cubes batteries come with voltage options of 24, 36, 48, 80, or 96 volts.

CAN integration: Hyster-Yale Group

Level of customization: Green Cubes’ design can incorporate multiple interfaces including USB, Ethernet, CAN, I2C, SPI and Wi-Fi to enable communication with system components as well as external software. The customer data interface can also be customized.

Service network and product after-sales support: N/A

Data-based products and infrastructure: “Maestro IoT” data system collects data from individual batteries through Wi-Fi during the charging process, and then sends it to the cloud. Customers have access to their data through a web application.

Key features: Multi-voltage models allow the same battery to be used in forklift models with different voltages specs (36 or 48V).

Additional information: Full kit (battery and compatible charger). Green Cubes offers its patented charging solution, which can charge its Li-ion batteries in less than 1 hour. Cold storage solutions.

Navitas

Manufacturing location: Illinois, USA

History: Navitas was founded in 2011 as a producer of lithium-ion batteries. In 2019 East Penn, the producer of AGM lead-acid batteries, acquired a majority stake in Navitas. Since then, lithium batteries for material-handling equipment by Navitas have been sold under the brand name Deka Ready Power; Deka is the umbrella brand of lead-acid batteries owned by East Penn.

Product line: Lithium-ion batteries for forklifts, telecom, and military applications.

Number of models: The company offers 28 models of LiFePO4 (LFP) batteries for Class I, II, and III lift trucks. Voltage options: 24, 36, or 48 volts.

CAN integration: Toyota MH, Hyster-Yale Group

Service network and product after-sales support: All products are supported by an extensive North American Sales and Service network that is factory trained and meets all specialized lithium regulatory requirements.

Data-based products and infrastructure: N/A

Number of models: Navitas offers 30 models of Li-ion (LFP chemistry) batteries for MHE. This number includes a variety of battery case sizes with output voltage options of 24, 36 and 48 volts.

Additional information: Navitas offers custom-built batteries using either LiFePO4 or NMC chemistry. Full kit (battery and compatible charger). Cold storage solutions.

OneCharge

Manufacturing location: California, USA.

History: OneCharge started operations on the Li-ion battery market in 2014. Its manufacturing facility opened in Silicon Valley (San Jose) in 2016. The company moved to a bigger facility in Irvine, CA in 2018, and then to Garden Grove, CA in 2021, this time tripling its manufacturing space.

Product line: Full focus on material-handling equipment. Li-ion batteries for Class I, II, and III industrial forklifts and lift trucks; heavy-duty cleaning equipment; automatic guided vehicles (AGVs); airport ground support equipment; and other off-highway vehicles (tugs, personnel carriers).

Number of models: OneCharge offers 5 series of batteries for various applications for nearly every industrial forklift make and model. Its product line totals over 600 battery models. OneCharge offers custom battery engineering for specific client needs and applications, including specialty equipment with a non-standard battery compartment. Available with a wide range of output voltage from 24 to 144 volts.

Time to market: a minimum of 5 weeks

CAN integration: Combilift, Aisle-Master, Hyster-Yale Group

Charger CAN integration: Ecotec Industrial Chargers

Serviceability: Remote troubleshooting and programming; standard replaceable BMS

Level of customization: High level of customization of battery box shape and size, voltage, capacity, and communication protocols with the host truck and charger.

Service network and product after-sales support: Nation-wide North American Sales and Service network.

Data-based products and infrastructure: The OneCharge Management System collects data from individual batteries through Wi-Fi at the facility, and then sends it to the cloud through a cellular connection. Customers have access to their data through a web interface.

Additional information: Full kit (battery and compatible charger). Cold storage and sealed solutions.

Stromcore

Manufacturing location: Ontario, Canada

History: Stromcore company was established in 2016 as a lithium-ion battery manufacturer.

Product line: Li-ion batteries for industrial forklifts and lift trucks. Stromcore uses NMC chemistry cells in its batteries. It offers voltage options of 36, 48, 72, 80, and 96 volts.

Number of models: N/A

CAN integration: Hyster-Yale Group

Level of customization: The batteries produced by Stromcore are composed of individual modules with a capacity of 100Ah each. A battery unit can be constructed from these modules as if with Lego bricks.

Service network and product after-sales support: N/A

Data-based products and infrastructure: Stromcore’s Battery Management System reports real-time data to the cloud. Real-time data is monitored through a web-based portal to maintain complete visibility. Updates and diagnostics are conducted remotely. Optional GPS can be enabled for large warehouses to track forklift movements.

Additional information: Stromcore claims that the modular battery structure allows capacity to be increased to 2000 Ah. Full kit (battery and compatible charger). Cold storage solutions.

Triathlon Battery Solutions

Manufacturing location: Germany

History: Triathlon Battery Solutions was founded in 2016.

Product line: Lead-acid and Li-ion NMC chemistry batteries for material handling and cleaning equipment.

Number of models: N/A. The company offers Li-ion batteries with an available output voltage of 24, 36, 48, 72, or 80 volts.

CAN integration: Crown Class II and III, MCFA

Charger CAN integration: N/A

Service network and product after-sales support: N/A

Data-based products and infrastructure: N/A

Additional information: Full kit (battery and compatible charger). A special charging solution from Triathlon allows simultaneous charging of up to 8 lithium-ion batteries. Cold storage solutions. Triathlon Battery Solutions also supplies lead-acid batteries, even though they acknowledge the advantages of Li-ion batteries like opportunity charging, longevity, zero maintenance, etc.