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The problem with the high-energy batteries that power forklifts and other heavy machinery today is that they create toxicity and are often highly flammable.
But new supercapacitors currently being developed could put an end to all that and make forklift batteries safer, more efficient, and longer lasting, according to a new report issued recently.
The report — “Functional Materials for Supercapacitors/Ultracapacitors/EDLC 2015-2025”, which was compiled by IDTechEx Research — looks at the types of batteries that will be powering forklifts and other vehicles long into the 21st Century.
Cheaper, Safer and More Long-Lasting
Forklift batteries of the future need to be cheaper and safer, and they need to last longer than batteries do today, according to Dr. Peter Harrop, founder and chairman of IDTechEx.
“IDTechEx shows which electrode functional materials best leverge the next-generation electrolytes so toxicity and flammability will be a thing of the past,” Harrop wrote in his blog. “Many key players in the industry are identified and their business/research plans revealed based on a host of ongoing interviews.”
Graphene Could Hold the Key
One of they keys to cheaper, safer and more efficient forklift batteries is graphene, a type of pure carbon material that could be used to “radically improve” batteries and supercapacitors, according to the report. This material could hold the key to making lithium-ion batteries universally used in materials handling.
“Supercapacitors increasingly replace some of these batteries, wholly in hybrids and they have many electric vehicles,” the report states. “In pure electric vehicles, they partly replace some traction batteries by being put across the battery, so the battery is needed and it is protected so it lasts longer.”
Currently Have Limited Use
Supercapacitors currently have some industrial applications, such as providing a backup for the regenerative braking on the Toyota Prius, the best-selling hybrid automobile in the world. They also are used to open electric bus doors in emergency situations.
But the report concludes that when researchers can find ways to make superconductors more energy dense and cheaper, they will become much more widespread in forklift batteries, as well as other industrial applications.
Forklift Batteries of the Future
Electrodes made of graphene are one of the most promising prospects for enabling supercapacitors and “supercabatteries” to capture up to 50% of the lithium-ion battery market during by 2020.
“Such supercapacitors would be safer, have lower cost of ownership and be far better in performance,” the report states. “Graphene may also be the key to supercapacitors taking much of the multi-billion dollar aluminum electrolytic capacitor business,” it continues. “That would make supercapacitors and supercabatteries (notably in the form of lithium-ion capacitors) one of the largest applications for graphene.”
Yet the road to cheaper, more powerful and safer supercapacitors containing graphene may be a slow one.
“As with batteries, what happens in the laboratory is not what emerges in production with good yields and all parameters acceptable including cost and life,” the report states. “Graphene is expensive when good purity and structural integrity are required.”