US Military Considering Faster-Charging Lithium Ion Forklift Batteries

Military Forklifts

A forklift is used to move ordinance in the bay of the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier (Photo courtesy of the US Navy and in the public domain)

When the lives of US military personnel are on the line in combat situations, the lengthy charge times of traditional forklift batteries could mean the difference between life and death.

That’s one of the reasons behind a $422,000 study to consider whether the US Department of Defense should convert forklifts at its largest logistic distribution center to faster-charging lithium ion batteries.

Navitas Systems LLC, based in Woodridge, Illinois, was recently awarded the contract to provide the high-tech batteries to the military’s forklifts at the Defense Logistic Agency Distribution Susquehanna. New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

Side-by-Side Battery Comparison

The company will provide lithium-ion batteries for approximately half of the distribution center’s electric forklifts. The other half will continue to use traditional lead acid batteries.

For the next year, the military will study whether Navitas’ Starlifter lithium-ion batteries improve the efficiency of operations, decrease battery maintenance, and improve forklift operational readiness and productivity, according to a Navitas news release announcing the defense contract.

“We couldn’t pick a more demanding environment than at DLA Distribution to demonstrate the benefits of our Starlifter lithium forklift battery,” said Mil Ovan, Navitas’ president. “Driving productivity improvements in material handling is doubly satisfying for us since it directly translates to speeding needed supplies to our war fighters.”

World’s Largest US Military Distribution Center

With 1.7 million square feet of space, 122 dock doors, and 322,000 individual storage locations, the enormous military logistic sites located in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, is the US Defense Department’s largest distribution center. Materials earmarked for use by US military forces worldwide is moved through its main building by means of 4.5 miles of conveyor lines and 5.3 miles of tow lines pulling 1,100 carts for its Automated Cart System.

The massive distribution center also has a fleet of 400 forklifts, order pickers, and materials handling carts. The center operates six days per week, two shifts per day. But during surges resulting from US military operations, it may operate seven days per week, 24 hours per day.

The award comes from the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a non-profit agency that addresses strategic issues between the military and industry.

In addition to seeking ways to speed up military preparedness, another purpose of the study will be to see if lithium-ion forklift batteries save money, result in fewer replacement and labor costs, and use less energy.

Navitas recently showcased its Starlifter lithium-ion forklift battery at the Department of Defence Maintenance Symposium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During the event, companies shared relevant information and identified critical issues with Defense Department officials.

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