Thursday, February 22, 2024

Lithium-ion leads the way to sustainability

Environmental credentials are a fundamental component of corporate CSR initiatives. In 2019, the UK became the first major economy to legislate an end to its contribution to global warming by 2050, requiring the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by this date. After rising steadily for decades, global carbon dioxide emissions fell by 6.4%, or 2.3 billion tonnes, in 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic drastically restricted economic and social activities worldwide. A great reduction, but as the world reopens, will we see these numbers rise once more? Businesses bear the responsibility both to deliver the infrastructure and change that helps shape a modern, post-pandemic economy, while doing it in a way that effectively measures, evaluates and reduces carbon impact. 

Alexander Baal, Director Sales Operations, Jungheinrich UK, explains how deploying Lithium-ion-powered material handling equipment is one method that can not only significantly support businesses’ CSR initiatives, but also help them to unlock valuable productivity and efficiency gains. 

Going green 

The market trend for businesses to move away from transportation and industrial equipment powered by fossil fuels has been gaining momentum for many years and this includes warehouse equipment such as forklift trucks. Climate change, with its true reality and impact on the planet, forms a significant part of everyday discussion for businesses, all of whom can contribute significantly both positively and negatively based on the decisions made around managing their business.

When considering the area of materials handling equipment, great strides in innovation have been made in recent years to deliver an alternative to gas and diesel power that not only supports the move to more sustainable energy sources, but also provides invaluable efficiency gains. The numbers speak for themselves that electric forklifts offer a significant positive effect when compared against their diesel or gas counterparts. For example, if a comparison is taken for a standard 2000kg electric counterbalanced truck working 2000hrs per year with its diesel and gas counterparts, we see that the electric truck would produce circa 4,600kg of CO2 in that year compared to circa 13,980kg for the diesel and circa 17,640kg of CO2 for the LPG. This means electric trucks provide a CO2 saving of 67% per year against the LPG equivalent and 74% saving over the diesel truck counterpart. 

Cost saving

It is true to say that an electric forklift embraces a higher initial outlay than its diesel or gas counterparts, however it also benefits from lower maintenance costs as there are fewer moving parts and hence fewer service items involved. Whilst short term savings can be made by the acquisition of the I/C engine trucks, the longer-term total cost of ownership of Lithium-ion-powered trucks can offer distinct value. There will always be differences in the amount consumers pay for diesel, LPG and electricity, however, typically the pricing for electricity remains far more stable than the long term pricing for any bi-product of crude oil, which is an important factor when considering decisions for the business. Depending on how many forklifts are being serviced at any one time, the outlay for electricity comes up trumps in the fight against fossil fuels. 

The benefits of Lithium-ion

The benefits for materials handling fleet operators to consider Lithium-ion are considerable for both efficiency and reliability. Lithium-ion supports 24×7 logistics operations without the need for regular battery changes due to its short charging times, high power and energy density, meaning there is no drop-off in power over the life cycle of the battery. Moreover, operators don’t need to factor machinery downtime into their operation, resulting in higher productivity throughput. Business savings are made as no maintenance is required and no period of battery resting is needed after each charge. During the recharge process, less energy is wasted as heat thus cost saving to further the business contributing to renewable energy, resulting in lower energy costs. 

In order to become more sustainable, businesses will inevitably need to adapt to using cleaner sources of energy. Many will therefore need to overhaul their diesel equipment and consider more energy efficient power alternatives, such as Lithium-ion. EV Batteries will require less lithium by over half over the next decade and the amount of cobalt required will drop by more than three-quarters and nickel by around a fifth according to analysis by Transport and Environment. Compared to diesel or gas equivalents, electric machinery will consume far less raw materials, making it the clear choice for a sustainable future.Therefore, by deploying a Lithium-ion powered alternative to warehouse equipment, businesses can increase efficiency and sustainability in the long-term, providing a key competitive advantage and advancing CSR goals.


The fall of carbon dioxide emissions as a result of the pandemic has provided a global opportunity for change and identified initiatives that can contribute to the continued reduction of CO2. Businesses have a crucial role to play to promote clean energy and deploy or scale-up new sustainable technologies to make equipment more energy efficient. Striving to deploy Lithium-ion powered handling equipment in future operations is one of the many proactive measures companies can take to ensure that their carbon footprint is reduced and sustainability is increased – especially with the significant rise of ecommerce which is set to continue, and that many businesses have already benefited from. 

Crucially, businesses must capitalise on this opportunity for change for the better. Not just to support global sustainability efforts to save the planet, but realise the additional benefits that come alongside – including cost savings, productivity gains and no downtime.

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