Lithium-ion batteries

In an innovative class of its own

Linde MH and STILL are working as part of a joint development project to take first steps towards using lithium-ion battery modules in various electric truck models.



Video cameras, mobile phones and electric tools marked the start of the successful development of lithium-ion batteries. They are now an integral and essential part of vehicle technology. The KION Group's brands use them in forklift trucks.

No battery change necessary – rapid charge is enough

Most companies use lithium-ion batteries because their volumetric energy is around four times higher than that of lead-acid batteries. This generally makes them lighter while still providing the same amount of charge. That particular benefit, however, is of little significance in the case of counterbalanced forklift trucks. But there are other features that make lithium-ion batteries stand out in the forklift truck sector.

Lithium-ion batteries last longer than lead-acid batteries. The electrical power supplied can be used more efficiently. Above all, a lithium-ion forklift truck can be driven for far longer with one battery charge, depending on the batteries used. This means you can forget a lot of the battery changes that would previously have been required. For example, they can be charged overnight, ready for the day's shifts in the morning. There is no need to change the battery or monitor the charging process – simply plug in and go. Despite being more expensive than lead-acid batteries, the higher costs do pay off.

The KION Group development team has drawn up a profile analysis of typical forklift truck uses. "We are seeing clear significant savings for customers in Western Europe in the areas of hardest use, which far outweigh the initial higher investment costs," said Stefan Wenzel, Head of Electrical/Electronics Development at Linde MH.

Safety first

The KION Group is therefore working with the Linde MH and STILL brands as part of a joint development project to take the first steps towards using lithium-ion battery modules in various existing electric forklift truck models. One main focus is safety in use. There must be no mechanical injuries from or electrical overloads of the batteries, even if an accident occurs. The malfunctioning of individual batteries must not cause the entire module to fail.

Therefore, Linde MH and STILL do not accept the lithium-ion add-on batteries already on offer from third parties. They want to completely rule out the possibility of mechanical and electrical damage. And finally, the batteries used in new lithium-ion forklift trucks are fully integrated into the truck's electrical system, complete with their battery management system. All relevant data will thus be sent directly from the data transfer system for on-board electronics to the charging electronics system and the driver. In later developmental steps, electric forklift trucks will be turned into real lithium forklift trucks with lithium-ion batteries. The compact batteries are smaller – a decisive criterion, particularly for warehouse technology. The turning circle and width of these premium forklift trucks are reduced for optimised use in high-bay warehouses, while their user-friendliness and performance are increased. In the end, the new lithium forklift trucks will create a generation of forklifts placed somewhere in between the current electric and IC forklift trucks. Investment in this development will ensure that industrial trucks from the KION brands maintain their lead in the premium forklift trucks segment.