In the "you take your victories where you can" department, electric-vehicle advocates and environmentalists alike can rejoice in the fact that even electric forklift sales are on the way up. Annual sales of electric forklifts in North America will exceed $500 million by 2020, up from about $100 million this year, according to a study by Navigant (formerly Pike) Research.

The primary reason for such a jump is the drop in technology prices. Specifically, e-lifts (OK, we made that term up) use lead acid batteries, which, at about $250 per kilowatt hour, cost about half to a third of what a lithium-ion battery costs, keeping overall costs down. With falling li-ion battery prices, however, more of them will be used for electric forklifts. Then there are fast chargers and even fuel-cell technology. These technologies will all improve the performance of zero-emission forklifts and, as a result, will drive more sales, Navigant says.

The subject of falling lithium-ion prices is a topical one to all things EV. Navigant recently put out a report saying that lithium-ion battery costs may fall to $300 per kWh by 2015 and to $180 by 2020, making them a cheaper proposition than even lead-acid batteries are today. For more, check out Navigant's press release on the e-lifts below.
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Advanced Electric Forklift Technologies Will Surpass $500 Million in Annual Revenue in North America by 2020, Forecasts Navigant Research

November 07, 2013 05:15 AM Eastern Standard Time

BOULDER, Colo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--While lead acid batteries are well entrenched in the forklift market, they are not ideal for some operators because of their limited runtime, long charge time, and short life cycle. Over the next several years, advanced electric technologies, such as fuel cells, lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries, and fast chargers, will continue to gain a larger share of the forklift market, in terms of revenue, although the conventional lead-acid forklift option will continue to account for the majority of sales. Click to tweet: According to a new research brief from Navigant Research, annual revenue from advanced electric forklift technologies in North America will grow from slightly more than $100 million in 2013 to more than $500 million in 2020.

"Where productivity benefits accrue quickly, more expensive electric technologies can provide a good return on investment and can compete with less expensive lead acid batteries and conventional charging."

"Advanced electric technologies offer solid benefits, such as reduced downtime, better performance, and longer life, but they still must compete on cost," says Lisa Jerram, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. "Where productivity benefits accrue quickly, more expensive electric technologies can provide a good return on investment and can compete with less expensive lead acid batteries and conventional charging."

Cost remains a significant barrier to expansion in this market, the study concludes. Lead-acid batteries for lift trucks cost $2,500 to $5,500 per battery pack, and current lead-acid battery prices are around $200 to $280 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Current Li-ion batteries are approximately 3 times the cost of a lead-acid battery. Since lead-acid is a mature technology, prices are likely to remain the same. Prices for fuel cells, Li-ion batteries, and fast chargers, on the other hand, are likely to fall.

The report, "Advanced Electric Forklift Technologies in North America", analyzes the market opportunity for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, direct methanol fuel cells, fast chargers, Li-ion batteries, and ultracapacitors for the North American forklift market. The report discusses the drivers for this market and the types of warehouse operations where the new technologies provide a good return on investment. Forecasts for electric forklift sales by technology and revenue from new electric technologies in forklifts in North America extend through 2020. The report also reviews the key challenges for each technology in further penetrating the market and provides brief profiles of key industry players. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.

About Navigant Research

Navigant Research, the dedicated research arm of Navigant, provides market research and benchmarking services for rapidly changing and often highly regulated industries. In the energy sector, Navigant Research focuses on in-depth analysis and reporting about global clean technology markets. The team's research methodology combines supply-side industry analysis, end-user primary research and demand assessment, and deep examination of technology trends to provide a comprehensive view of the Smart Energy, Smart Utilities, Smart Transportation, Smart Industry, and Smart Buildings sectors. Additional information about Navigant Research can be found at www.navigantresearch.com.

About Navigant

Navigant is a specialized, global expert services firm dedicated to assisting clients in creating and protecting value in the face of critical business risks and opportunities. Through senior level engagement with clients, Navigant professionals combine technical expertise in Disputes and Investigations, Economics, Financial Advisory and Management Consulting, with business pragmatism in the highly regulated Construction, Energy, Financial Services and Healthcare industries to support clients in addressing their most critical business needs. More information about Navigant can be found at www.navigant.com.