OneCharge is one of the largest developers, manufacturers and integrators of lithium-ion batteries for forklift trucks in the United States. OneCharge operations cover the US, Latin America, Europe and CIS countries. OneCharge’s client portfolio includes leading multinational companies.
The industrial lithium-ion battery market reaches $ 1.5 billion and is growing rapidly. OneCharge has been an industry pioneer and currently is the market leader in the USA. The company sells large quantities of industrial batteries for warehouse equipment. It successfully collaborates with such market leaders as Hyster-Yale, Crown, and Toyota. It’s been highly recognized by customers, dealers, and manufacturers.
Lithium-ion batteries accelerate the development of the conservative forklift market. The companies who use them manage to improve their competitive positioning on the market as the batteries provide higher machinery performance.
While competitors are mainly focusing on R&D activities, OneCharge is commercializing lithium-ion battery technology. OneCharge is able to reach specific market niches via increase of its sales as well as better product adaptation for client needs. The company aim is to create easy and ready-to-use solutions for a wide range of industrial clients. This strategy has allowed the company to enter into American market rapidly.
OneCharge acts as ‘change ambassador’ in relation to new technologies implementation. The company is continuously investing in technological development. It has been exploring new chemical compositions for batteries that could reduce the cost of the product, balance, and improve it. New developments are quickly implemented in the production process and are gradually becoming new benchmarks on the market.
As the industry leader, OneCharge sets the standards from technical solutions to new professional terminology.
OneCharge batteries are available to mass industrial consumers. They are delivered via application of EaaS (energy-as-a-service) concept, which previously had a very limited presence on the market. The batteries are equipped with remote data collection and monitoring systems that enable the computation of the energy produced. As a result, the client pays only for the energy consumed, rather than the cost of the battery (which is comparable to the cost of the forklift truck itself).
The company does a lot to ensure that the maintenance of its batteries is as simple as possible. It has developed a special modular component system that allows for repair of the batteries without disassembling them. This approach streamlines service department training in order to accelerate the lithium batteries’ expansion into the market.
OneCharge has invested in increasing the voltage used in batteries as well. It enhances significantly the efficient energy use for warehouse equipment. Such industry leaders as Hyster-Yale Group support the company in this initiative and willingly contribute to the promotion of high-voltage batteries on the market.
The story of OneCharge started in 2014 when it was selling batteries for warehouse equipment. Rather quickly the company founders realized that the market needed a product with multiple levels of quality and characteristics. At that time, none of the existing battery manufacturers were able to offer such a product. In 2016, the company launched its own manufacturing in the US and started investing actively into R&D. The team aimed to create a business covering the entire product lifecycle: from manufacturing and sales of batteries, to EaaS financing, recycling, and reuse of the old batteries.
OneCharge’s three product lines are:
- Standard batteries for forklift trucks and other warehouse equipment;
- Frost batteries, operating even at extremely low temperatures (-30oC and below);
- Low-voltage batteries with reduced functionality and lower cost.
The company developed its own battery management platform (BMP) to help clients to use the batteries more efficiently. BMP enables the uninterrupted operation of the batteries, managing them remotely, and monitoring their performance.
OneCharge developed strong business relations with large dealers and their US and International clients . In 2017, OneCharge’s sales were $2.7 million. In early 2018, the company reached a break-even point. Based on rapid market growth, the founders have forecast revenues of $12 million in 2018, $40 million in 2019, and $60 million by 2020-2021.
The demand for material handling machinery is growing globally, paralleling growth of the economy and the increase of consumption. The US market is rather stable and highly segmented. It is represented by several major brands (Toyota, Raymond, Hyster-Yale, and others) and plenty of small manufacturers. Loaders are divided into various classes, have numerous modifications, while all of them have similar features. Due to this, manufacturers can no longer compete at the product functionality level and are looking for new ways to improve competitive positioning on the market.
This situation has led to several new trends. First, the market share of electric forklifts is growing. They are replacing the machines working on internal combustion engines. Forklifts on storage batteries have already taken 60% of the market, while the Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) is getting more restrictions due to the toxic emission.
Secondly, the battery market itself is changing. Lead-acid batteries are the absolute leader now. These batteries are cheap, easy to produce, and have 99% of market share. However, the technology itself was developed in the 19th century and does not meet modern requirements for energy: efficiency, eco-efficiency, recharge time, etc. Lead batteries should be charged 8-12 hours uninterrupted. When they are half discharged, their power output decreases significantly. Such batteries should be replaced at least once during the lifetime of the loader. Also, lead batteries are cheap to produce, but extremely expensive in terms of service. They require highly skilled personnel as wells as constant monitoring and control because the battery compartment requires ventilation and special maintenance. As a result, the most common batteries for forklifts are outdated in many aspects.
The market needs energy-efficient, eco-friendly, reliable, and safe technology to replace the outdated ICE, to lead and accelerate the new structure of the stagnated forklift market. The technology corresponding to the needs of the automation era is in high demand. Robots work constantly and therefore need a constant source of energy. Lead and ICE are no longer meeting these requirements.
There are two technologies able to replace ICE and lead ones at the moment: hydrogen cells and lithium-ion batteries. However, hydrogen fuel cells are not yet competitive. They provide a reliable and environmentally friendly solution, but the cost of such power plants is too high since hydrogen is explosive and should be stored under special conditions. The infrastructure for producing hydrogen is not sufficiently developed yet.
Lithium-ion batteries have already proven to be a convenient and efficient solution. They are actively used in consumer technology and have made a real revolution there: cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, video cameras, and electric cars, to name a few. They are lightweight and energy-efficient, have low maintenance costs and low self-discharge level. Lithium-ion batteries do not have a ‘memory effect’ (i.e., they do not need to be completely discharged before charging to retain the capacity). Their charging time is 1-2 hours. They reduce energy consumption by 25% compare to lead-acid batteries and are characterized by moderate environmental risk.
Lithium-ion batteries maintenance costs are significantly lower in comparison to lead-acid analogs. However, lithium-ion batteries are highly dependent on the operating temperature and contain complex electronics that makes them more ‘demanding’ in terms of operation than lead-acid batteries. To resolve this, special software and hardware solutions for battery management are required. The competitive struggle between different manufacturers of forklift’s brands is now concentrated precisely on such solutions.
Currently, the share of lithium-ion batteries in the battery market for forklifts is less than 1%. However, it is expected to grow to 8% or more by 2020 as the industry is interested in retrenchment, productivity upturn, and switching to the environmentally friendly technologies.
There are also other stimulating factors for the market development. The cost of lithium-ion batteries maintenance is already substantially lower compared to lead-acid batteries and it continues to decline. The lions share of lithium is now mined in the salt springs of Latin America. Over the past few years, new sites have been developed with a breakthrough in production technologies. Therefore, within the next 3-5 years the price of lithium is expected to decrease by 40-45%, which will eventually reduce production costs.
So far, the market sees lithium-ion batteries for forklifts as a relatively new technology. However, these batteries will soon become a benchmark in the world of industrial batteries and will be in high demand. A large market unlocks great opportunities and tests the sustainability of a product at the same time. Only companies such as OneCharge, which respond to market needs and are able to commercialize their solutions, will pass that sustainability test.