Warehousing Logistics International: Best Practices for Using Lithium-Ion in Cold Storage Facilities

Temperature-controlled supply chain is more important than ever during with today’s volatile supply chain. On-line ordering of pre-prepared food, beverage clubs, and medicine distribution are all increasing the need for cold-chain technology. Lithium-ion batteries charge faster, and opportunistically, and have longer run-time than traditional lead acid batteries, optimizing equipment utilization Batteries don’t need to be swapped, watered, or equalized at room temperature, so maintenance is simplified. Cold-temperature cycle life is vastly improved for a lower total cost of ownership. This is a brief overview of how to implement and take advantage of this new technology.

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The New Warehouse: Green Cubes Technologies

On this special episode of The New Warehouse Podcast, we get an education on Lithium 101 with Robin Schneider, Director of Marketing at Green Cubes Technologies. Green Cubes is a power technology provider for customer OEM batteries, batteries for stationary equipment like data centers, and the motive business that makes batteries and chargers for material handling equipment and ground support equipment you would find at airports. If you are curious about lithium-ion batteries and what they can do for warehouses and material handling operations, you will want to tune in.

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Green Cubes Technology Announces Swappable Industrial Battery for Mobile Workstation and Motive Product Manufacturers

Swappable Mobile Power (SMP) portfolio enables the electrification of mobile and motive products with swappable battery technology

KOKOMO, IND. November 17, 2022 – Green Cubes Technology (Green Cubes), the leader in producing Lithium-ion power systems that facilitate the transition from lead-acid batteries and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) power to green Lithium-ion battery power, today announced its Swappable Mobile Power (SMP) portfolio. The SMP portfolio enables manufacturers to electrify their mobile and motive products utilizing swappable batteries with the leading Lithium-ion battery chemistry. At the center of the portfolio, the Swappable Industrial Battery (SWIB-1000) offers one of the highest Watt-Hour ratings for swappable Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) batteries on the market today.

Optimized for operator ergonomics and “hot” swapping of portable batteries, the SMP portfolio of products enables the electrification of non-powered mobile carts, such as industrial, medical or educational workstations. Additionally, multiple Swappable Industrial Batteries can be connected to power motive products with high torque requirements, such as Automated Mobile Robots (AMR), pallet jacks, or motorized sleds.

“Green Cubes pioneered the use of swappable batteries for mobile medical workstations and is the market leader in the production of swappable batteries for mobile industrial workstations,” said Mike Davis, Chief Revenue Officer for Green Cubes. “The Swappable Industrial Battery enables mobile workstation and motive product manufacturers to enhance the capabilities of their products and diversify their product line. This includes the electrification of non-powered workstations and motive products, as well as expanding the range of IT devices supported on existing powered workstations.”

The Swappable Industrial Battery is a 48 Volt, 20 Amp-Hour, 1000-Watt Lithium Iron Phosphate battery that offers exceptionally stable voltage under load, high capacity and power delivery in a small lightweight form factor. In addition to its ergonomic and ruggedized design, the watertight battery has an Ingress Protection (IP) rating of 65, which is optimized for both indoor and outdoor environments. Agency and safety approvals include UN 38.3 and IEC 62133.

To complement the Swappable Industrial Battery, the SMP portfolio has a suite of accessories to complete the integration with mobile workstations and motive products, including a battery receiver, power distribution electronics, AC/DC power supplies for charging and DC/AC power inverters to power mobile IT devices.

The SMP products are currently being evaluated by educational and industrial equipment manufacturers and their enterprise customers. Commercial availability is scheduled for the first quarter of 2023.

The Swappable Industrial Battery can deliver 1000 Watts to power mobile and motive equipment.

To learn more about the Swappable Mobile Power (SMP) portfolio; https://greencubes.com/product/industrial-battery-swib-1000/

About Green Cubes Technology

Green Cubes Technology develops and manufactures safe and reliable electrification solutions that enable its OEM and enterprise customers to transition from Lead Acid and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) power to Lithium-ion battery power. Green Cubes utilizes proven hardware and software platforms to build the most reliable Lithium power solutions in its industries. With over 300 employees across six countries, Green Cubes has been producing innovative, high-performance and high-quality power solutions since 1986.

Future-Proofing Your Fleet: Long term Viability of Li-ion Technology in the Material Handling Industry and Ground Support Equipment Industries

For nearly two decades, I have focused on battery technology and the battery industry. I have a PhD from The University of Texas at Austin, where I studied with John Goodenough, who won the Nobel Prize for inventing the Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. When I was in graduate school, in the late 90 and early 2000s, Li-ion batteries were not yet used commercially; laptop computers were powered by NiMH batteries and NiCd powered tools, camcorders and remote-control cars. GM had a robust research program on electric vehicles, which was ultimately canceled in 2002 because of poor market acceptance. No one knew which technology would power the emerging consumer electronics market- most thought NiMH batteries would stay as the default and big companies invested in everything from fuel cells to MEMs fly-wheels.

The Beginning of the Li-ion Battery Industry

Then, a number of key innovations resolved some of the safety concerns about Li-ion batteries, SONY commercialized the first Li-ion cells and the die was cast. Nearly all laptops were powered by Li-ion batteries within just a few years, and Li-ion batteries enabled cell phones which came on the market a bit later. The sheer volume of these two applications, enabled the market Li-ion battery market itself to mature, so that now nearly everything that needs portable or back-up power uses Li-ion. The only exception to this adoption is long term legacy lead acid stationary back up power and heavy equipment motive applications, like material handling and ground support equipment. Lead acid still has a lower up front cost and these applications don’t really benefit from the size and weight advantages of Li-ion batteries.

What will Happen Next in the Li-ion Battery Industry?

As motive applications like material handling and ground support equipment become the last hold outs for an older technology with a decidedly poorer environmental profile, I believe that we will see total costs for lead acid batteries increase. The infrastructure that is built up around the lead acid market (recycling, etc.) will shift to support the Li-ion battery industry. Li-ion batteries will have more suppliers and more diverse product offerings, more competition and more supply chain redundancy. Adjacent technology for Li-ion will improve and manufacturing methods will gain efficiencies. The US government is already beginning to invest heavily in strategic, domestic Li-ion manufacturing. When the governments of leading countries can start to ban and regulate Lead Acid, they will. In fact, RoHS and other regulations have specific call-outs for lead in batteries just because there has not been a viable alternative, until now. China has already begun to take drastic steps to completely ban lead acid battery manufacturing. Lead acid manufacturing will likely be only in far-away places with inexpensive labor and poor environmental regulations and high shipping and import costs. In the industry, there is no more debate about if Li-ion batteries will overtake Lead acid, the question is more when and how. The volume of Li-ion batteries being produced will be an advantage to the material handling and ground support industries long term, rather than a risk.

Will a New Technology Replace Li-ion Batteries?

The conversion of the entire industry from lead acid to Li-ion will be long, so you may wonder if there will be another, new technology that will leapfrog it, and my prediction is that there will not. Inventions in this science are very slow and tend to be incremental; it has taken China 25 years to get its mature Li-ion battery industry. If there were something coming up behind Li-ion batteries, it would already be far into development. I do believe that fuel cells will be a key part of the new zero carbon fleets, but they will replace ICE primarily and co-exist with Li-ion battery powered trucks. Because hydrogen infrastructure requirements are similar to gas and oil, it will likely be ten years before this technology is commonly available. In summary, Li-ion battery technology is going to be the de-facto standard in material handling and ground support equipment in the near future.

In Case of Emergency, Go Swimming?

In a recent Green Cubes webinar, we were asked, “What is the best fire suppression system for lithium-ion batteries?” We are asked this question often by all sorts of customers, whether it be for our lithium-ion material handling, large stationary, or our swappable cart power systems.

Safety is very important to us and our customers, and we want to ensure that everyone is prepared in the case of an unlikely lithium-ion fire. Fires in lithium-ion batteries are often a result of a process called thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is when one hot cell can light the next cell on fire just by getting it hot enough. This is a cascading type of failure where one cell may ignite, and then heat up the cells nearby, and then they ignite, and so on and so forth. This is the primary way fire propagates through lithium-ion batteries. Many battery systems have preventative measures built in to slow down the thermal exchange from cell to cell. This may slow the fire, but it usually doesn’t stop the fire.

The National Fire Protection Association is in charge of constructing U.S.-based best practice documents for building and commissioning of structures to prevent and reduce the risk of fires. There are codes and standards that cover construction, electrical, HVAC and plumbing systems. All NFPA codes are available at NFPA.org, and printed copies are available for purchase. All architects, contractors, engineers and tradesmen must reference these standards as they perform their duties. 

Experts spend years researching and creating the NFPA codes. NFPA code 855 was released in 2020 and covers the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems. A 2023 update will cover lithium-ion batteries. 

In NFPA 855, Annex C is all about Firefighting Considerations. Here we find that “the NFPA’s Fire Protection Research Foundation and third-party engineering groups have shown that fires involving lithium-ion cells must be cooled to terminate the thermal runaway process.” “Firefighting foams and dry chemicals are not considered to be effective for these chemistries because they lack the ability to cool sufficiently and can conduct electricity.” It’s also noted that Carbon Dioxide and inert gas (such as Halon SF6) are also ineffective at cooling the batteries and cells. 

How do we maintain the safety in data centers, hospitals, warehouses, and any other building with lithium batteries inside? What is the best fire suppression system? The simple answer is water, and lots of it, enough to go swimming, and then some! This will cool the cells and stop the thermal runaway process. Water is the agent of choice due to its abundance (in many areas), superior cooling capacity, and ease of transport to the seat of the fire. Water can come from a built-in fire suppression system, or a firefighting hose.  In some unique systems where fire poses little to no risk to the surrounding uninvolved equipment the NFPA mentions that a “defensive posture” is to be considered, and the fire left to burn itself out. This is often a good strategy for outdoor cabinet locations that are far from people and other equipment since having water on site might not be possible. 

As a further safeguard, the NFPA also limits the amount of energy stored and the density of these batteries to help prevent fire propagation. Section 9.4.1 states that each “rack” of batteries cannot exceed 50kWh and must be spaced at 3-foot intervals. This is to help prevent fire from spreading rack to rack in the case of an event. It also allows for enough room to get fire fighting equipment into the area to douse the fire with lots of water. Finally, most sites are limited to no more than 600kWh of batteries, or 30 of the max “racks” from above. As all NFPA rules, the AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction) has the final say on any installation and may require additional safety measures to be in place, such as local fire department training, annual walk throughs, etc.

Recap of The Battery Show in Novi, Michigan 2022

Overview

Listed below are interesting announcements and observations from our team that was deployed to The Battery Show last week in Novi, Michigan.  We want to provide the entire battery community with trends and new announcements that may influence their product and partner choices in industrial electrification.  This year, the crowds were crazy, which lead to many queues for basic necessities such as parking and on-site food.  

https://www.thebatteryshow.com/en/home.html

Echotec

EcoTech announces and displayed their new 5 kW Ecopoint HF1 motive Li-ion battery charger.  It has an efficient High Frequency single phase input of standard 190 thru 240 VAC input voltage range, and near unity (0.99) power factor.  Great charger for palate jack batteries, walkie batteries and AGV batteries.  And as always, Ecotech is one of the few motive chargers that has most of their products in stock.  https://ecotecbatcharger.com

To learn about Green Cubes’ similar Li-ion battery charger go to: https://greencubes.com/product/lithium-safeflex-chargers-fbc-series/

Phihong

Phihong is one of the leading OEM/ODM EV battery chargers in Asia.  Their products include Level 3 DC charger ranging for 30 kW to 480 kW, and Level 2 AC charger ranging from 32 to 80 Amps.  They had an impressive array of motive Li-ion battery chargers and EV Li-ion battery chargers on display in their booth.  OEM Chargers on display included chargers they developed for Shell, Bosch, Audi, Jaguar, and Taiwan Cement Corporation.  https://www.phihong.com/ev-chargers/

Lithion

Lithion manufactures the Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) Valence brand of modules and battery packs, formerly manufactured by Valence Corporation.  Along with the array of 12V, 24V, and 36V standard format batteries offered by Lithion, tucked away in a small corner of the booth, they did have samples of their new LFP cylindrical cells.  Although I did not measure the size of the cells, presumably they will offer 26650 format cells.  Looking forward to the production release of these cells next year.  https://www.lithionbattery.com/

To learn about Green Cubes’ standard format LFP batteries go to: https://greencubes.com/products/batteries/

East Penn and Navitas

East Penn had an impressive array of the Deka brand of Flooded Lead Acid (FLA), Sealed Lead Acid (SLA), sealed gel, TPPL batteries on display in their booth.  And a portion of the booth was allocated for the Navitas brand of motive batteries, which are being rebranded as Deka Ready Power batteries.  It is interesting that East Penn attends an EV trade show with lead acid batteries. It makes you wonder how committed they are to embracing lithium-ion batteries, or are they trying to delay the inevitable ?  https://www.eastpennmanufacturing.com/

CATL

CATL partner CSI had a wide variety of EV components on display. This included many pre-engineered Li-ion battery packs to fit any number of applications, over 300 types I was told by their Sales team. They also offer many automotive components that have been sourced and customized to seamlessly integrate with their battery packs, making EV’s much easier and faster to design. They didn’t have any Sodium Ion batteries (SIB) on display, but did mention that CATL is working on this next generation chemistry. http://www.coulombsolutions.com/ 

EVE

One of the premier Li-ion battery cell vendors EVE had a large booth and an even larger presence on the floor. EVE was showing off their impressive line of LiFePO4 Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) chemistry cells, and battery modules. EVE continues to grow their presence in North America as a quality cell and battery manufacturer. https://www.evebatteryusa.com/

LithiumWerks

An exciting showing for LithiumWerks, as they have just recently been acquired by a firm out of India, Reliance. They are producing two very powerful cylindrical cells, with high discharge rates, and excellent cycle life. Reliance is the largest Energy conglomerate in India, and LithiumWerks is poised to provide energy storage to the global market. https://lithiumwerks.com/

To learn about the difference between NMC and LFP go to: https://greencubes.com/about-us/types-of-lithium/

Energy Assurance

With all the new Li-ion cell and Li-ion battery vendors at the show, there were some excellent testing partners to help with qualification. Aside from the normal Intertek, UL, SGS labs, there was Energy Assurance at the show, who operates multiple labs across the US, including the old A123 facility in Massachusetts. With impressive testing capabilities, a new 20,000 sqft lab and a focus on customers Energy Assurance will be growing in the next years for sure. https://www.energy-assurance.com/

Opportunity Charging Enabled by Fast Charging MultiVoltage Batteries

Overview

Opportunity charging is a practice applicable to both Lead Acid and Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries for motive power systems and especially useful for Material Handling (MH) equipment. These practices can be applied to all classes of MH equipment from small pallet jacks to 4 wheel forklifts to large turret trucks. Fast charging is a key differentiator for Lithium-ion batteries. Because the chemistry allows fast charging without damaging cycle life, Our Lithium SAFEFlex Li-ion batteries can be charged opportunistically during breaks and don’t require battery swaps. However, typical fast charging requires very high currents and two cables to accommodate the current with larger capacity batteries. Green Cubes Techology’s MultiVoltage SAFEFlex battery can be charged at twice the voltage, so dual cables are unnecessary and they can be charged in half the time.

The MultiVoltage SAFEFlex battery can be charged at twice the voltage, so they can be charged in half the time, bringing opportunity charging to the next level of convenience.

Charging Lead Acid batteries

For optimal cycle and calendar life of FLA batteries, manufacturers recommend that the daily cycle for batteries consist of:

  • discharging the batteries fully
  • charging at a C/5 rate
  • resting for an eight hour cool down period
  • equalize the battery on a weekly basis

Each battery experiences one full charge and discharge cycle per day. This conventional charge/ discharge regimen is reinforced by FLA battery manufacturers through warranties. With this maintenance one can expect to receive 500-1000 cycles from their FLA batteries before they start to experience permanent capacity fade.

FLA batteries can be opportunity charged (typically 25 Amps per 100 Amp-Hour or C/4 rate) and fast charged (typically up to 50 Amps per 100 Amp- Hour or C/2 rate), but these unconventional FLA charge regimens shorten or violate the manufacturer warranties.

The implication of this is that each piece of equipment used on a single shift may need one or two batteries for each vehicle. If the enterprise operates a multi-shift operation, then more than one battery is required per vehicle. So, at a minimum, multi-shift operations dictate a battery swap when the shift changes or the batteries need to be replaced more frequently than the warrantee period.

Charging Li-ion Batteries

Li-ion batteries are preferably charged using a Constant Current / Constant Voltage (CC/CV) charge regimen, but most MH equipment batteries are designed to accept both CC/CV and FLA charge regimens. Regardless of the state-of-charge of the battery when connected to the charger, the battery will efficiently accept the power and increase its state-ofcharge. Whether the battery has been connected to the charger for 15 minutes or two hours, that battery can be immediately discharged and used by the MH equipment as there is no need to cool or rest a Li-ion battery after charging.

The Li-ion cell chemistry has numerous chemical variants. Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) chemistry is the predominant chemistry used to power MH equipment: LFP features:

  • exceptionally long cycle life (2000 – 4000 cycle to reach 80% of the original capacity)
  • high power capabilities for both charge and discharge
  • lower energy/density than other Li-ion variants.

The long cycle life means an LFP battery can be installed and remain in the equipment for 8-10 years. More importantly, since LFP chemistry can accommodate high power delivered to and from the battery, a depleted LFP battery can accept a full charge in a little over one hour (i.e. 1 C rate) and it can be charged throughout the shift when the operator has a break or lunch. Li-ion is the optimal chemistry for opportunity charging.

SAFEFlex MultiVoltage Batteries

Lithium SAFEFlex is a comprehensive battery solution designed to meet the cost, performance, efficiency and durability requirements of the rugged warehouse environment. It includes application-specific cell chemistry and intelligent battery management electronics. Lithium SafeFlex battery systems are high cycle life maintenance free solutions for industrial vehicles with fully customizable features to fulfill the most demanding requirements. The drop in replacement batteries make upgrading from Lead Acid to Lithium simple. The batteries are sized to fit the standard motive power lead acid battery, along with meeting the truck battery weight requirements.

MultiVoltage technology enables the battery to charge at double its output voltage, which cuts charging time in half and makes opportunity charging a more accessible option with simplicity and ease of use for the operator. The MultiVoltage battery completes a full charge in less than one hour and is offered in 24/48V, 36/72V and
48/96V combinations.

Green Cubes has deployed over 200 MultiVoltage batteries across these three different voltage combinations. It is common for high use and high capacity batteries, such as a large 48V battery, to be charged with two cables to increase the charge current. The MultiVoltage battery utilizes a single connector 4/0 cabling, which delivers cost efficiencies and minimizes the chance of cable damage over traditional fast charging with dual cables. Other than the battery configuration itself, the MultiVoltage battery uses standard chargers and requires no changes to the equipment.

Features of SAFEFlex MultiVoltage Batteries

Ease of Use

  • 30 kWh, 48V 600Ahr battery can be full charged in less than 1 hour at 320 amps
  • Configurable dot matrix battery discharge indicator provides critical battery information along with errors or other important runtime data
  • No change to truck required, CAN communication for lithium ready equipment
  • Utilizes existing 4/0 cabling
  • No Maintenance
  • No Watering
  • No Equalization Charging
  • No Battery Washing Needed

Safety & Protection

  • Utilizes Lithium Iron Phosphate battery chemistry for increased safety and stability
  • Voltage, Current, and Temperatures are continuously monitored by Green Cubes Technology’s custom Battery Management System (BMS) which controls the internal safety contactors or disconnects the fuse
  • Constructed from UL approved components

Energy Savings

  • Recharge efficiency of 98% or higher helps save electricity and minimal energy loss to internal heating extends battery life
  • Improvements in runtime capacity efficiency of 10% or higher
  • Charging at 2X voltage reduces power loss from component impedances

Flexible Design for Optimized Truck Applications

  • Green Cubes Custom Battery Management System (BMS) offers over 100 parameters that can be adjusted for performance based upon the application.
    • High Current Trucks with Accessories
    • Low Temperature Storage Operations
    • High Cycle Opportunity Charging
  • Fully ballasted battery for heavy counterbalance trucks or non- ballasted batteries for light applications
  • Exceptional charge management controlled by battery BMS is ready for CAN enabled chargers to further improve charge efficiency

Best Practices to Exploit Opportunity Charging

  1. Do a power study where the battery activity is monitored. Based on the data, one can determine whether there are adequate opportunities for charging throughout the shift. If there is no down-time for the equipment throughout the shift, then the batteries will need to be charged for an hour before the shift.
  2. Single shift vs. multi-shift operations can determine the value of opportunity charging. If the enterprise operates a single shift operation, a fully charged Li-ion (or FLA) battery should power that vehicle through the shift. When a second (or third) shift is needed, then opportunity charging can be used to recharge in increments and ensure that the equipment is powered through all the shifts.
  3. Rather than charging FLA batteries in a centralized battery maintenance room, distributed the Li-ion charging stations near break rooms and heavy work areas. Decentralized charging stations eliminate the operator’s travel time from their work area to battery maintenance room as well.
  4. Assess existing FLA chargers to determine if they are compatible with the Li-ion batteries.
  5. Assess the power output of the existing FLA and Li-ion charging infrastructure. The the power rating on the charger must be much higher when opportunity charging.
  6. Consider a multi-voltage battery if opportunity charging is desired but there is not adequate down-time within a shift.

MultiVoltage Battery Benefits

  • High Cycle Life
  • True Fast Charge / Opportunity Charge
  • Drop In Lead Acid Replacement
  • Passive balancing while in use equals NO DOWN TIME
  • Standard charger cabling (single 4/0) with charging amperage of 320 amps
  • Cuts out the expense of extra cables
  • Reduce chance of cable damage

Applications

  • Forklifts / Pallet Jacks
  • AGV (Automated Guided Vehicle)
  • Ground Support Equipment
  • Industrial Electric Vehicles

Industries

  • Distribution Centers
  • Cold Storage
  • Food and Beverage
  • Pharmaceutical Warehousing

ABOUT GREEN CUBES TECHNOLOGY

Green Cubes Technology develops and manufactures a complete portfolio of lithium power systems that enable its OEM and enterprise customers to transition from Lead Acid and Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) power to Lithium-ion battery power. Green Cubes utilizes proven hardware and software platforms to build the most reliable lithium battery systems in its industries. With over 300 employees across six countries, Green Cubes has been producing innovative, high-performance and high-quality products since 1986. For more information, email info@greencubestech.com or visit greencubestech.com.

GSE Expo: Recap and Summary from the Paris Show September 12-15

Despite the hot weather, all 4000 attendees who registered for the show seemed to have made it! The show was very enthusiastically attended. Green Cubes was there in force with our veteran expert, Jerry Crump, and the latest addition to our GSE battery team, Mike Richards, heading up our representation. CTO, Nicola Cinagrossi, and VP Solutions Architecture, Tony Cooper, were there to talk tech with our customers and our CEO, Keith Washington, was there to show our commitment to this fast-growing market. GSE batteries are becoming more and more popular for the electrification of ground support equipment. We had interest in our Lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries from global airlines, ground handler OEMs and airports.

We weren’t the only company representing the Li-ion battery industry. Flux Power and Colibri both had representatives walking the show floor. CAMY had a booth, but we didn’t see any of their staff. Ampherr was showcasing their high voltage GSE batteries. ACT was front and center with their GSE chargers for Li-ion. TLD http://www.tld-group.com was showcasing their Li-ion solution and Aviaco was demonstrating a conversion from internal combustion engines to Li-ion GSE batteries.

It was exciting to talk to potential channel partners in Europe. We had a very positive reception for our GSE Li-ion batteries with the CE mark for the European ground support equipment market and we look forward to building even more connections in this area. To learn more about GSE Li-ion batteries go to: https://greencubes.com/applications/motive/ground-support-equipment/