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Editor's Pick - Materials Handling


Leading the lithium revolution

03 February 2023

Want a lithium-powered model that handles like a yard truck? Want a retrofit lithium battery for any forklift you have? Lithium Battery Solutions brings to market a range of products that will enable you to do just that, Stephen Burton tells HSS editor Simon Duddy.

WHOLLY-OWNED Windsor Materials Handling subsidiary Lithium Battery Solutions has launched a two-pronged approach to bring nuance to the lithium revolution.

Managing director Stephen Burton talks about the concept which aims to transform the markets mindset when considering their transition to electric, which he believes will make lithium power accessible to new applications, as well as making the retrofit of lithium power to existing forklifts easier and less expensive.

UN Forklift

Stephen says: “The typical three tonne electric truck is not a yard truck, they are made for indoors, they don’t have the suspension and are too rigid in their chassis, so that’s a non-starter for many applications, such as builder’s merchants, which is why we brought the UN Forklift range into play.”

The core offering that Lithium Battery Solutions brings to market is the new NL series lithium battery forklift, capacity from 2.0T to 3.5T counterbalance which boast an IC truck chassis with a floating cab, that takes on yard work with operator comfort in mind. For ease of operation, the charging socket is mounted on left hand side of the truck, making it easy to place on charge upon dismount, and removing the requirement to lift the bonnet to place on charge like traditional electric counterbalance trucks.

“In our opinion, if you’re operating counterbalance trucks below 8 tonnes, you’re unlikely to opt for diesel unless you really have to. This makes the UN NL series a real contender for us - you are getting the cost and maintenance benefits of an electric truck, without having to compromise on the performance that you’d get from an IC truck. This makes it an easy transition for operators making the switch to lithium.”

“Builder’s merchants are absolutely primed for this.  Applications tend to be up to 20-25 hours per week, where the user needs the availability.”

For traditional IC truck users, moving to lead-acid battery trucks is arguably a bigger change, as it involves battery maintenance. They must be refilled regularly with distilled water to function properly and stay healthy, which in turn brings added implication to health and safety procedures.

“Typically, switching to lithium is a change of mindset for a diesel counterbalance user,” says Stephen. “Whereas you can get on a lithium UN truck and it will feel very similar in its setup - and we can adjust the programme settings so it operates like a hydrostat or like a traditional torque convertor IC truck which gives the operator a like-for-like drive.”

Users can get up to 5 hours run time out of a single charge of the UN truck, however longer run times are expected from the soon to be launched 5 tonne range.

So which users would be most suited to this twist on the lithium forklift?

“Builder’s merchants are absolutely primed for this,” says Stephen. “Applications tend to be up to 20-25 hours per week, where the user needs the availability. For a lot of the independent builder’s merchants it’s all about quick delivery, they’ve got to keep their customer service levels going and this truck enables them to do that.

“Our advice is, if it’s idle, charge it, you can get 10% charge in 20 minutes, and a full charge in two hours. You’re getting opportunity charging with maintenance free batterie. We describe it as hassle free motoring.”

The price point of the UN Forklift is competitively placed and is not dissimilar to that of an IC truck, but it is the total cost of ownership savings that are turning heads of our customers, not to mention that the cost of electricity is around 20% that of diesel.

Lithium batteries

The second lithium innovation is focused on the retrofit of lithium batteries to existing forklifts.

Stephen explains: “The BSLBATT range of batteries that we are bringing to market is proving to be a game changer for our customers. We can fit lithium batteries to any manufacturer’s truck, which could be anything from a walk behind powered pallet truck to VNA man-up machines, providing unchallenged run-times.

There are two types of battery on offer: a water-based cell, which is suitable for cold stores; as well as an oil-based cell. The chemistry used is Lithium Iron Phosphate – known as LiFePO 4. - rather than NMC. 

“We work closely with the factory to design and build our own batteries to fit inside the trucks and do all the aftermarket modifications to suit any solution. Currently, we don’t work with the CANbus on the trucks, it’s all done via our separate BMS, so we can monitor remotely and keep abreast of utilisation,” says Stephen.

“A lead-acid battery has 1,500 cycles, and if you discharge by 20%, that is considered a cycle. With lithium, if you discharge by 20%, you still have 80% usage without impacting performance. You’re getting double in terms of battery lifetime, and despite people sometimes worrying about how to dispose of the batteries once they are no longer fit for use, we’re aligned to a secondary market in uninterruptible supply systems (UPS).”

“Within the market there is an undoubtable belief that lithium is a dangerous, flammable product with dangerously high voltage which is a challenge we have come across when pitching recommendations to customers” adds Stephen. 

“We’re going through an education process to demonstrate that LiFePo 4 is in fact, incredibly stable and has been through rigorous lab tests before entering the market. We have test data on all of our cells, including crush and nail tests and have consulted with the fire brigade on the treatment of a lithium battery fire which transpires is the same as for a lead-acid battery fire.”

That all said, there is still room for traditional lead-acid in some applications.

“I still struggle to see why in 24/7 applications reach trucks should be lithium-powered,” explains Stephen. “They hot shift, back-to-back, and I don’t believe there are many companies that have the time to opportunity charge them.

“This last 12 months particularly has shown that the drive in becoming Net Zero by 2030 is not going away."

“One common mistake that we have identified is that when many people are considering the change to lithium is that is has to be either/or, we find we say to customers, this part of your fleet is suited to lead-acid, and for this part lithium will pay-off. This is where the consultancy approach comes in where we will run the operational calculations and work with customers to get the most efficient and cost effective solution for them.”

Lithium Battery Solutions is set up to run both the BSLBATT battery range and act as an importer for UN Forklift products. It is currently the exclusive UK importer and distributor for both.

Windsor Material Handling is a customer of Lithium Battery Solutions and a distributor for both product types, with Stephen also looking to go out to a select dealer network.

“We are approaching this part of the offering with great consideration, what we don’t want to do is flood the market and find ourselves in a situation with multiple dealers quoting customers on the same product which is frustrating for all parties,” he says.


As well as costs, sustainability is a key part of the drive to lithium. Companies are going to have to meet environmental standards to get accepted on to tenders.

“Many sustainability measures that would not have flown just a few years ago are now top of the agenda for many businesses.

“To assist customers on this journey, we have a strategic partner, Axiom Sustainability, which provides ESG reporting and sustainability software that helps with attaining Scope 1, 2 and 3. The software is a platform that provides organisations with the visibility required to support their sustainability journey, with Scope 3 being the most challenging to achieve as you’re effectively impacting the entire supply chain.

“This last 12 months particularly has shown that the drive in becoming Net Zero by 2030 is not going away and we have a responsibility within the supply chain, that we are all trying to affect, to offer products that help a customer’s move to becoming carbon neutral, as well as making operations the most efficient and cost-effective that they can be.”

For more information, visit www.windsor-mh.co.uk and www.lithium-bs.com