Alternative Power Market for Forklifts to Reach $500 Million by 2020

Advances in fuel cells, lithium ion batteries and fast chargers will make them more powerful competitors to lead acid batteries, research states.

Lead acid batteries may be the favored power source of choice in the forklift market, but their limited runtime, long charge time, and short life cycle will eventually cause fleet managers to reconsider alternatives such as fuel cells, lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries and fast chargers, according to a new research brief from Navigant Research. Although the conventional lead-acid forklift option will continue to account for the majority of sales, this report states that annual revenue from advanced electric forklift technologies in North America will grow from slightly more than $100 million in 2013 to more than $500 million in 2020.

With all the benefits of these alternatives, they still must compete on cost, according to Lisa Jerram, senior research analyst with Navigant Research.

“Where productivity benefits accrue quickly, however, more expensive electric technologies can provide a good return on investment and can compete with less expensive lead acid batteries and conventional charging,” she maintains.

Cost remains a significant barrier to expansion in this market, the study concludes. Lead-acid batteries for lift trucks cost $2,500 to $5,500 per battery pack, and current lead-acid battery prices are around $200 to $280 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Current Li-ion batteries are approximately three times the cost of a lead-acid battery. Since lead-acid is a mature technology, prices are likely to remain the same. Prices for fuel cells, Li-ion batteries, and fast chargers, on the other hand, are likely to fall.

The report, “Advanced Electric Forklift Technologies in North America,” analyzes the market opportunity for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, direct methanol fuel cells, fast chargers, Li-ion batteries, and ultracapacitors for the North American forklift market.

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