When winter arrives many fleet managers are surprised at how quickly forklifts and other electric vehicles required battery recharge. Low temperatures affect how industrial battery systems operate and can have a negative impact on fleet performance. Here are a few tips to keeping your batteries and vehicles at top productivity during the cold winter months.
How To Keep A Charge On Batteries
Industrial battery systems provide power by a chemical reaction between the electrolytes and the metal in the battery. The speed of chemical reactions is affected by temperature, proceeding more quickly when it's hot and more slowly when it's cold. This in turn affects the battery's power output--a slower reaction means less power. A cold battery puts out less power so has a shorter operating life before needing recharge. Managers can increase the frequency of battery replacement, or can use battery heaters to keep the units warm.
One benefit of this relationship between power and temperature is that unused batteries hold their charge longer when it's cold out. All rechargeable batteries slowly leak power when unused, but the rate of loss slows as the temperature drops. Refrigerated batteries hold their charge much longer than ones stored at room temperature.
The liquid in industrial battery systems can freeze, preventing the battery from operating and potentially damaging the casing. Battery solution has a lower freezing point than water, and the actual temperature it freezes is based on the battery's charge. Fully charged batteries can be stored safely even at temperatures well below zero, but partially discharged batteries freeze at temperatures only slightly below the freezing point of water.
If possible, keep vehicles inside on very cold nights. The area doesn't have to be warm, but should be kept above freezing. Charge the batteries at night since charging batteries, like running water, can't freeze. If the vehicles can't be stored indoors, consider removing the batteries and taking them inside at night. This doesn't have to happen every night, only on nights where the temperature is going to drop below freezing.
Most fleet managers know to keep battery recharging areas well ventilated due to the hydrogen gas given off by industrial battery systems during the charging cycle. Explosive hydrogen gas plus the ignition source inherent in the battery recharging process is a disaster waiting to happen. Good airflow ensures the gas is never able to build up to explosive levels.
During cold months, workers may close doors and windows to keep out the cold. Managers need to consider whether or not recharging areas are getting enough airflow in this case. If not, workers need to be educated about what needs to be kept open during charging operations. Worker comfort is important, but so is worker safety.
Follow these simple hints and your fleet and the industrial battery systems they depend on will run just as well in the winter as they do in the summer. Contact us for more information!