The Benefits of AC-Powered Electric Lift Trucks

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Direct-current (DC) power used to be the industry standard for North American lift trucks, but there has been an industry shift toward electric lift trucks powered by alternating current (AC) that previously were available only in European countries. With more manufacturers entering the expanding AC-powered market, it's important that users understand the benefits of the AC lift-truck model.

The benefits of AC-powered electric lift trucks

In addition to the AC lift truck's ability to maintain a battery charge longer than a comparable direct-current model, there are several other benefits of selecting these trucks instead of the old DC models. Lower maintenance requirements paired with that longer battery life mean that operation time is increased, along with productivity, while overhead costs decrease. Because of the way alternating-current-powered electric lift trucks are designed, they accelerate faster and have more torque than a direct-current truck, along with better handling, better response times and greater power when the lift truck is climbing an incline.

If your company is trying to meet environmental goals, switching to AC powered trucks in your warehouse or loading bay can help reduce emissions and bring you several steps closer to those goals. AC power, with its dependence on batteries, completely cuts any type of exhaust. Of course, this should not be confused with energy savings - while batteries lower emissions, they may require as much or more total energy to operate through charging.

Perhaps the most attractive feature of an alternating-current-powered electric lift truck, however, is the fact that power can be regenerated during use. Switching between forward and reverse operation, as well as braking, can help the battery to regenerate power. It won't eliminate the need for recharging, but it does increase the length of run time per charge. The motors of AC lift trucks are also enclosed, and don't have motor brushes due to the significant reduction in exposure to dust and other elements, eliminating sparking and dramatically reducing the amount of required maintenance.

You are not stuck with just a few AC models these days. Forklift batteries come in a variety of sizes and types. The heavier or larger the battery, the longer it can operate without requiring a charge. Modern batteries offer several advantages, from short cool-down periods after charging to extra-fast charging times to help manage those downtimes. Even the best batteries, however, will still require equalizing charges that can take up to 24 hours or longer plugged into the charger. This is why companies typically purchase a set of batteries rather than just one or two.

Because alternating-current motors are noticeably quieter than their direct-current counterparts, operators are better able to hear what's going on around them and thus are more aware of environmental factors, which can lead to a reduction workplace injuries or accidents.

Examining the total cost of an AC-powered electric lift truck

Lifetime cost analysis is necessary to compare the expenses of fuel and AC trucks. AC powered trucks tend to have high starting costs: Companies have to pay for a charging station and at least one new battery - often two or more batteries per truck to help reduce downtime. This adds up to a steep first-time expense, but as the years pass, battery-based vehicles tend to make it up through continual savings. They do not require the same level of maintenance as fuel trucks, and they do not depend on the continual expense of gas, propane, or any other fuel. It's important to examine the total cost of owning an AC lift truck to get an accurate picture of the scope of the investment, though.

Over the course of its lifetime, an AC lift truck can be significantly less expensive to operate and maintain than one powered by direct current. Because maintenance on the equipment itself is comparatively minimal, there will be immediately visible savings in the form of reduced downtime and maintenance costs. Air-quality monitoring and maintenance costs are also lower, as the AC lift truck is less prone to environmental damage due to its sealed motor system. Between the energy efficiency, lowered maintenance, increased productivity, and higher performance, alternating-current lift trucks may actually be less expensive in the long run.

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