MHI has a brand-new industry group: the Advanced Energy Council, or AEC. The group is focused on advanced energy solutions, including lithium-ion batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, and other technologies and accessories, which now includes lead-acid battery manufacturers that recently added lithium batteries to their offerings.
The idea to form the group came from Maxim Khabur, marketing director for MHI member OneCharge Lithium Batteries, who worked with MHI’s Christian Dow to make it a reality. There’s definitely a need—previously, only one industry association existed for the industrial battery industry, but the group only promotes lead-acid battery manufacturers and no other types.
First on the agenda is getting a clearer picture of market size and market share for each solution, including the lithium segment of the forklift battery market, he said. MHI is now providing a framework and is helping to collect the sales data from the participants. The association will then perform the calculations and provide each reporting member with the overall market size, as well as their share of the market.
“This will help each of us to better communicate to our customers and prospective customers,” Khabur said.
There’s also a lot of different nomenclature currently around all the various technologies, which requires a learning curve for both buyers and end-users, he said. As such, AEC is also now trying to develop common terminology and best practice definitions. The group is also calling for the open battery integration protocols with forklifts, which increases the number of options for the end-users.
AEC’s formation reflects a “sea change” in the technologies used to power mobile material handling applications, including forklifts and industrial lift trucks, said Robin Schneider, director of marketing for MHI member Green Cubes Technology Corp. All those applications had been powered by lead-acid batteries for indoor use, and internal combustion and diesel fuel for outdoor use.
“But in the last several years, there have been changes in the technologies available, including lithium-ion batteries and their associated chargers, to shorten charge time and provide higher efficiency and much longer cycle life without the need for regular maintenance,” Schneider said. “Indeed, there are fuel cells that can instantaneously charge completely.”