Briefcase-size Battery Full of Energy

Fiege Logistics Centre Relies on Jungheinrich Trucks Fitted with Lithium-Ion Technology

At its Esprit European Distribution Centre, logistics service provider Fiege operates a total of five electric EJE 112i pedestrian platform trucks – all powered by lithium-ion batteries from Jungheinrich. Essentially the size of a briefcase, these extremely lightweight batteries are easy to change, with short recharging times. And their small size is a major factor contributing to the compact design of the first mass-produced industrial truck of its kind.

Carsten Bergau, head of the shipping dept at Esprit Distribution Centre Europe (DCE) located in the German city of Mönchengladbach, climbs the stairs to the hydraulic lift platform in the incoming goods area. “The low weight of these EJE 112i trucks is what makes them so ideal for the hydraulic platform in the incoming goods area as well as our other platform in outgoing goods. Since the surface load in both cases is limited to 750 kilograms per square metre, it is impossible for us to use an ERE 225 Sprinter or any kind of heavy truck.”

Given this situation, the operator was delighted to learn that Jungheinrich had developed a lithium-ion truck which, including its 14.7 kg battery, weighed a total of just 317 kg – making the EJE 112i some 150 kilograms (i.e. more than 30 percent) lighter than the truck’s base vehicle, the EJE 116. The EJE 112i is consequently ideal for weight-sensitive operations – for example, for use on lorry tail lifts.

But the weight on Fiege’s hydraulic platforms was only one of the arguments in favour of using an EJE 112i. Bergau demonstrates how easy it is to use the low platform forklift to move a Euro pallet loaded with empty cartons and a cover, with a total weight of 400 kg: “We decided in favour of these battery-powered EJE 112i trucks to save our workers from having to use pedestrian pallet trucks to transport loads over distances of up to 100 metres,” he explains.

Convenient “Battery Briefcases”

The highlight of the EJE 112i forklift – its battery – is quick and easy to change, staying clean in the process. A female staff member at Fiege demonstrates how this done, simply pushing a button to open the drawer of the battery compartment, then removing the lithium-ion suitcase from it and inserting a new, fully charged battery. The entire operation takes less than a minute. Bergau lifts the “battery briefcase” effortlessly up in the air with one hand. “Changing the battery used to be quite difficult, making this ‘briefcase-type solution’ much more attractive, given the vastly easier and more ergonomic, intuitive handling. We moreover save on space, since we no longer need to have a separate battery charging room. We have small charging stations built in at both hydraulic lifts, which we use to charge a total of eight lithium-ion batteries,” reports Bergau.

An additional bonus consists of the reduced recharging time based on a specially designed high-frequency charging device. Thanks to charging characteristics which are especially geared to the EJE 112i, Fiege enjoys short recharging times without restricted battery life. For the first time a battery can be charged more quickly than it can be discharged in standard situations. Even the interim recharging capability is trailblazing, with work breaks providing more than enough time to substantially recharge the battery. Within 30 minutes the battery can store around 50 percent of its capacity, and within 80 minutes it is fully charged – advantages which make it possible to use the truck flexibly even in multi-shift operations.

Bergau turns over the briefcase in his hands: “This lithium-ion battery is completely maintenance free and as a result continuously available. This means that nothing more stands in the way of continuous operation. Normally we work two shifts, and during the peak season sometime three shifts.” Since maintenance which would otherwise be necessary for lead-acid batteries are superfluous with lithium-ion technology, this saves on personnel and infrastructure costs. The Jungheinrich battery management system contributes to the battery’s continuous availability, regulating the interaction of the battery cells – including the cell temperature and voltage – and monitoring the degree to which the cells are charged and the operational limits observed.

Mobile Even in the Tightest Spaces

Thanks to this compact and lightweight battery Jungheinrich succeeded in reducing the size of the battery compartment and significantly reducing the size of the forklift as a whole. As a result the L2 dimension, i.e. the length of vehicle to the face of forks, is only 425 millimetres, as opposed to 494 mm for the EJE 116 base model. Bergau points to a drawing that illustrates the resulting advantages: “Since the EJE 112i has an extremely small L2, i.e. front section, and is therefore extremely nimble, we can manoeuvre the truck even in the tightest of spaces.”

The decision in favour of renting five EJE 112i trucks, which went into operation  in July 2012, was simultaneously a decision in favour of the first mass-produced forklift fitted with lithium-ion technology. The EJE 112i combines the ruggedness and economy of electric pedestrian controlled platform trucks with the advantages of leading-edge lithium-ion technology. Further examples of efficient application areas can be found in classic chain store applications as well as lorry loading and unloading, plus on-board lorry transportation. In the latter case the small size of the tail lift is the primary limiting factor, making the compact L2 size of the EJE 112i especially positive. In addition the operator benefits from the fact that Jungheinrich was able to reduce the weight of the forklift by 150 kilograms. Just like the battery, the three-phase A.C. drive motor is completely maintenance-free. Jungheinrich protects the controls and the plug from dust and moisture by encapsulating them in conformance with protection class IP 54, while the sensor system conforms with IP 65. The low-platform truck’s ProTracLink coupling crank compensates for slanted loads on gradients.

The higher efficiency afforded by lithium-ion technology in combination with the latest generation of Jungheinrich three-phase A.C. technology has allowed for a reduction in the size of the truck, thus lowering operating costs as well. Energy consumption and as a result CO2 emissions are substantially lower. Bergau holds up a report on the ecological rating of logistics systems, remarking that “as a partner of the ‘Green Logistics’ project, we consider lower CO2 emissions to be an essential advantage of lithium-ion technology.”

When it comes to operating the EJE 112i, convenience and comfort are the watchword: The truck is fitted with a long, low-mounted safety tiller and an ergonomic tiller head, while a clear colour-coding system and buttons with abrasion-resistant symbols form the basis for intuitive operation. The crawl speed button is located on the bottom of the tiller head, making it easy to activate when driving with the tiller in an upright position. Jungheinrich has also tailored the grip angle to the operator’s hand position. Bergau demonstrates how the rocker switches on the EJE 112i tiller head are easy and safe to operate with the tiller in any position: “Our staff members don’t even need any instructions on how to operate these pedestrian pallet trucks – and they are highly satisfied with them,” he relates.

Cutting-edge Logistics Centre

While the new DCE logistics centre was still being planned, Fiege’s client Esprit, a leading international fashion brand, placed a high priority on the highest possible degree of automation. The operator already had the fashion label as a non-exclusive client at its Fiege Mega Centre in Ibbenbüren, but without conveyor systems – order picking was done via cartons and pallets. DCE fulfilled Esprit’s desire for a state-of-the-art logistics centre which handled its orders exclusively in a highly accessible and well-connected region. From the DCE location Fiege distributes its goods Europe-wide to 320 self-operated Esprit retail sales outlets plus a total of 900 wholesale POS locations. Boasting approximately 46,000 square metres of indoor space, DCE provides almost 600 jobs to the local population. “Esprit also reserved the option to concentrate its logistics at a single location,” comments Bergau, adding that there was “more than enough” potential for expansion.

Jungheinrich also sees a bright future for the EJE 112i electric pedestrian truck, having already won the “Clean Tech Media Award” in the “Energy” category as well as the national “Ecodesign 2013” award in Germany – the only intralogistics provider to win this award.

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