Latest figures on carbon dioxide emissions paint a worrying picture. Over the decade between the years 2006 and 2016, the average annual increase in carbon dioxide emissions stood at around three per cent, with a new record of 37.5 billion tonnes being reached in 2014.
And the latest figures released in June by the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii for the previous month showed the highest peak – at 414.7 parts per million – in the concentration of carbon dioxide recorded in the atmosphere in 61 years.
The observatory operates from an isolated location in the Pacific Ocean, and so is considered an accurate provider of data on pollution thanks to its lack of local pollution sources and vegetation.
The report added that the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing year-on-year, and in fact, the rate of increase is only getting faster. There is firm evidence, experts added, that this acceleration can be attributed to more and more emissions.
Carbon emissions and the materials handling sector
According to a paper published in 2016 in the Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management on the part of electric and LPG forklifts in minimising the carbon footprint, the logistics and transport sector accounts for around 2.8 billion tonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide, that’s approximately 5.5 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.
The sector clearly plays a significant role in contributing to pollution, and it’s no surprise that manufacturers of material handling equipment such as forklifts and other warehouse equipment are offering solutions to this growing problem.
With the expansion of the manufacturing, retail and distribution industries, it stands to reason that providers of logistics and handling equipment need to change with the times and consider the future impact of their, and related industries’, day-to-day business.
How are these emissions released?
Clearly as well as the type of forklift or other equipment used – whether powered by fossil fuels or electricity – there are several parts of the material handling process which can result in more or less emissions.
Thinking about the material handling sequence, an unloaded forklift will leave the loading or unloading area of its warehouse and stop at the storage area.
Here it picks up an optimum number of items for an efficient and safe manoeuvre.
Once loaded, the forklift leaves the storage area with its destination being the loading or unloading area of the warehouse.
How the warehouse is laid out, its size and capacity and the weight of the handled goods all play a part in the bigger picture, contributing to energy consumption and the time taken to perform the task.
So where do forklifts come in?
Arguably, one of the most significant factors in the amount of emissions produced is the type of forklift used.
The paper mentioned above sought to identify which type of forklift produced the least carbon emissions.
It looked at forklifts that were either powered by an LPG or an electric engine. The study set out hundreds of scenarios – in fact, 600 in total – varying the number, size and weight of items to be moved, the distance between the loading/unloading and storage areas and analysed the data this produced.
It found that while the LPG forklift performed better for heavier weights, the electric-powered forklift was the clear winner, producing fewer emissions when handling light or medium weights.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the LPG forklift was considered to have performed better for the heavier weights thanks to its greater load capacity, in turn affecting the speed at which the handling can be carried out and the time it takes to accomplish.
Despite the above, it’s clear to see that the electric forklift produced some really positive results for the medium to light weights, having the edge over forklifts powered by large, diesel engines.
The way forward – lithium-ion batteries and their benefits
Reflecting these findings, EP Equipment, with its main production based in China, offers solutions to the impact of carbon emissions by warehouse equipment. The globally-operating company manufactures warehouse equipment such as pallet stackers, forklifts, tow tractors and order pickers with a strong focus on electric vehicles.
In fact, its L1 Li-Ion four-wheel forklift boasts the accolade of being the world’s first forklift powered by lithium-ion battery. Its quick charging (in two and a half hours), compact and safe battery means that it is a great choice for busy warehouses who prize efficiency.
EP’s smaller three-wheel forklifts also offer excellent performance and reliability, powered by a lithium-ion battery and suitable for mid to large capacity warehouses and other distribution zones. With a battery that is slow to consume energy but quick to charge, these vehicles are as dependable as they are efficient.
And it’s not just forklifts, but the whole range of materials handling equipment that profits from this technology. The lithium-ion battery is perfectly suited to EP’s range of stand-on electric tow tractors, for example, providing consistent power and dependable performance while being easy to charge.
To understand a little more about how lithium-ion batteries can give outstanding performance while still being efficient, it’s good to know a little about how they work.
They use lithium iron phosphate which is more compact and rich in energy than traditional lead-acid. And because the cells are sealed, they don’t need any water top-ups, nor do they require constant maintenance, providing the perfect solution for a whole range of warehouse equipment.
While lithium-ion batteries may be initially more expensive, they have proven to be more durable than lead-acid ones, lasting up to four times longer, and so providing better value for money over the long-term.
The EPT12-EZ electric pallet truck takes full advantage of these efficient batteries. Despite its small size and weighing 120kg, its battery powers its ability to lift up to 1200 kg. It is light and easily removed, providing up to three hours’ charge to perform all the tasks required of it.
It’s easy to see why these batteries are a winner if you’re operating a warehouse. Apart from the cost savings, time will be saved by not having to maintain or replace lead-acid batteries.
They have great green credentials: while a lead-acid battery tends to consume up to 50 per cent of its energy through heat, a lithium battery will typically use only 15 per cent. Reduced energy means reduced carbon emissions, and this is always a plus point, whatever your industry.
What’s more, they are quick to charge, work consistently and don’t slow down your machinery as they lose power.
The JX0 order picker is another example of a vehicle that maximises its lithium-ion battery. The vehicle’s neat dimensions mean the battery is quickly charged and ready for use, and comes with electric power steering for easy handling.
And EP has some ingenious solutions when it comes to extracting and replacing lithium-ion batteries. Their easy slide-out covers mean only one person is needed to complete the operation, or they can be extracted by a second forklift – no extractor unit required – or a compact lift-out beam and swivel hook.
The icing on the cake is that they are sealed and safe, and can be recycled in special receptacles.
These efficient and innovative attributes ultimately lead to better productivity using a cleaner, greener product.
The future is powered by lithium-ion
Without a doubt, choosing electric warehouse vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries is the way forward in more ways than one. Efficient, powerful, low maintenance and easy to charge, they have the added benefit of producing significantly less carbon footprint than their fossil-fuelled cousins.
And if you consider how lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones, tablets and other personal electronic devices have boosted sales exponentially…you will understand that the same phenomenon is just around the corner for their use in industrial vehicles and equipment. Get ready for a future powered by lithium-ion batteries!