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Bringing Li-ion to material handling markets

As lithium-ion power becomes more common in material handling industries, companies providing the batteries are working through current supply chain logistics and within the rare materials markets to get Li-ion power to customers.

And some say they foresee the demand for lithium being strong through 2023.

Green Cubes Technology is a business that develops and manufactures “safe and reliable electrification solutions that enable customers to transition from lead acid and internal combustion engines to lithium-ion battery power,” according to Robin Schneider, director of marketing. She said Li-ion batteries improve operational efficiency because the batteries can be fast charged and last “for thousands of cycles, allowing a single battery to support a truck operating 24/7.”

Green Cubes, which Schneider said utilizes proven hardware and software platforms to build reliable lithium power solutions for the material handling industry, has over 300 employees across six countries. The business has been producing “innovative, high-performance and high-quality power solutions” since 1986, according to Schneider. She said procuring electronics for the company’s products is a challenge in the current market. “As in most industries, we are experiencing issues securing electronics that provide safety and intelligence for the battery management system. While this is presenting a challenge to our team, for the most part, our batteries are purchased along with new industrial trucks and the truck lead time is longer than the lead time for the battery,” Schneider said.

Green Cubes also manufactures Li-ion battery chargers and the lead time for those is much shorter, according to Schneider. She said the company projects increased demand for Li-ion batteries in 2023 since the value proposition is “now widely recognized in the industry.”

“Increasingly, we see large enterprise customers replacing lead-acid batteries in existing fleets over the course of a few years,” said Schneider, who noted that Green Cubes is a charger member of the new Advanced Energy Council. The council is “a working group within MHI which will help this nascent industry develop standards and collect industry-wide data trends,” Schneider said.

At BSLBATT, lithium-ion technology solutions are both designed and manufactured, according to Haley Ning, marketing manager, who dubbed the business a “fast-paced, high growth and high-tech company.”

“Our battery packs are used to power industrial and commercial equipment,” said Ning, noting forklifts, renewable energy equipment, and new applications like golf carts, floor machines, marine, and mobile elevated work platform stations as examples. “The company takes the development and production of advanced series BSLBATT best solution lithium batteries as its mission,” Ning said.

One issue in the business in recent years has been the price of lithium carbonate, according to Ning. “Since 2021, the price of lithium carbonate has soared about 10 times based on 2020 prices. No one expected prices to fluctuate so much,” said Ning, who said the price shifts have been attributed to a mismatch between supply and demand.

The price fluctuation of the commodity lithium is in line with the development of the industry and is expected to ease within two to three years, according to Ning. “Electric vehicles and energy storage are the main drivers of global lithium demand. In order to accelerate the promotion of zero-emission vehicles, countries have increased policy support and government subsidies for new energy vehicles,” said Ning, who said the acceleration of transportation electrification has driven the rapid expansion of lithium battery production capacity.

The dual demand for energy storage and new energy vehicles has translated to global lithium resources being tight, according to Ning. “In addition, due to the complex mining process and long cycle of iron ore and lithium ore, the increase in production capacity of upstream mining companies often lags behind the growth of downstream demand,” Ning said.

However, price increases must have an upper limit as new energy and energy storage systems bring sustainable energy to more users around the world, according to Ning, who noted that reducing costs and increasing production will go hand-in-hand. BSLBATT puts “quality first” and has a layout of overseas offices and warehouses in the U.S., offices in Europe, and the establishment of a BSL factory in Mexico, according to the business.

The locations are “all aimed at delivering high-quality products to our customers quickly. In addition, we strive to create value for global customers and partners and seek to grow together with them,” Ning said. Products associated with batteries have also seen a high demand recently.

Valley Industrial Battery sells many battery slings designed for safety, according to Kenny Strong, the company owner. “We sell a ton of those slings,” said Strong, who said the slings are rated for up to 5,000 pounds. He said the slings, which include rubber-coated hooks, prevent conducting electricity and can be operated by one person.

The slings themselves weigh just four pounds at shipping. “That includes the box,” said Strong, who said the product presents a safer alternative to steel chains for battery changing.

“Basically, a guy if he’s going to do an install, he’s not lugging in a 150-pound battery or a rusty old chain,” said Strong, who said the business has been selling the slings for the past four to five years. “We sell them all over the country,” said Strong, who said the business has never had a supply chain issue with supplying customers with slings.

“It’s a very basic product. When we’ve got a customer who is apprehensive, we just send a demo. Knock on wood, they’ve never sent them back,” Strong said. “They’ve always kept them and ordered more.”

About the Author:

Eileen Mozinski Schmidt is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Greater Milwaukee area. She has written for print and online publications for the past 14 years. Email editorial@MHWmag.com.  If your company would like to be featured, email editorial@MHWmag.com