A lithium ion battery is four times lighter and three times smaller than its lead acid counterpart, according to Delta-Q Technologies. Battery manufacturers say this advantage has helped lithium ion to carve out a place in a portion of the cleaning industry where weight matters a good deal: vacuums. 

The benefits of battery-powered upright and backpack vacuums are well documented. The absence of the cord not only saves time by eliminating the need to unplug, it also reduces injury risk because tripping over the cord is no longer an issue. However, pushing or lugging around a vacuum with a heavy battery also presents injury risk. 

Botting says he’s seeing lithium ion enter the industry first through vacuums, with the reason for this likely being its lighter weight in comparison with lead acid and how that reduces stress on a janitor’s back. There isn’t the same impetus to put lithium ion batteries in floor equipment because the heavier weight of lead acid isn’t an issue, says Botting.

RELiON Battery has, too, seen lithium ion batteries enter the jan/san market through the industry’s smaller equipment. 

Feodorov suspects the decision by OEM’s to enter jan/san this way is cost-based. By trying smaller batteries first, she reasons, users can see how lithium ion works before investing in the more expensive batteries used to power bigger machines.

Battery manufacturers expect lithium ion will make its way into bigger floor machines soon.

“Many OEMs are looking at using lithium in larger machines in the near future, but to my knowledge they have not tried them yet,” says Feodorov, who added an OEM did recently request from RELiON Battery a lithium iron phosphate battery for a burnisher.

Faster charge times, longer run times and no maintenance (think flooded) will be the reason end users decide to consider lithium ion as an alternative to lead acid when it comes to powering floor machines, says Botting. He says the lower total cost of ownership that lithium ion presents will eventually be the quality that wins the most people over. All of these advantages seem to be some of the top reasons battery manufacturers think the switch will occur.

“Anything that’s being currently made inconvenient because you have an extension cord or because of the weight could use [lithium ion],” says Botting.

Lithium iron phosphate in particular should find a place with any motive power application that has been reliant on lead acid because the total cost of ownership and performance of the chemistry, says Feodorov.

“We expect to see [lithium ion batteries] used more in 2019-2020 based on the conversations we are having,” says Feodorov.

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