CHASE-ing the goal of better electric forklift batteries

26 May 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202019152

Green Industries & Renewable Energy
Materials Handling & Bulk Handling
Transport, Distribution & Logistics

THE aim of CHASE Technologies is to convert 50% of the current electric forklift market from lead-acid to lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries within five years.

That’s according to General Manager Brent Fraser, who said, “Given the accelerating current uptake of the technology by our customers, this is an entirely achievable and realistic goal”.

CHASE is an acronym for Chemical and Solar Energy Technologies. Its focus is the provision of energy storage in the form of lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries for forklifts in materials-handling applications, in addition to battery-operated heavy equipment such as cleaning equipment, and related battery chargers.

The company has an exclusive distribution agreement with the highest-volume producer of heavy-duty LiFePO4 Li-ion batteries globally. These range from small 25.6V 135Ah units, right up to larger 80V 700Ah units.

CHASE-ing the goal of better electric forklift batteries

Fraser said this wide range means that the company can cater for most customer requirements in the forklift segment. Its all-aluminium casings, inserted in heavy-duty mild steel tanks, are manufactured especially at its Alrode South facility. These can also be customised for specific customer requirements.

In addition, each battery comes with an integrated battery monitoring system (BMS) that safely manages the charge and discharge of the battery, while ensuring maximum possible lifespan. Another key differentiator is that CHASE Technologies has a comprehensive stockholding of both complete battery modules and spare parts, including harnesses, and components for the BMS itself.

The Li-ion battery packs have an optional integrated telematics system for remote monitoring and fault-finding. They have been designed and manufactured specifically for the arduous operating conditions found in most forklift operations. “This is why our batteries have an unprecedented five-year, 12 000-hour guarantee,” Fraser said.

Given that the rule-of-thumb economic lifespan of a forklift is typically 12 000 hours, this means that the battery is guaranteed for as long as the forklift is in operation. An added benefit is that, when the warranty expires, end users are still assured of years of use from the batteries before they have to be recycled.

Fraser said the company has the capability to supply all Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), as it is able to rejig its battery packs to fit any brand of forklift. In terms of future growth and expansion opportunities, it will also look to supply ancillary markets such as golf carts, cleaning equipment, access platforms, and even back-up power solutions to assist with load shedding.

The company embarked on an extensive research and development programme about three years ago into the feasibility of introducing Li-ion technology into the South African market. “Our first successful implementation was about two years ago. Since then we have been tweaking the technology to achieve the optimum configuration that suits the forklift segment and traction market in general.”

Fraser said the LiFePO4 was not only the most stable Li-ion battery technology available, but also the least energy-dense. “CHASE Technologies is therefore able to incorporate the inherent increased weight of the battery into the counterweight ballast of the forklift for the required stability and safety.”

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