Posted January 25, 2024

When will Li-ion battery forklifts overtake sales of other forklifts?

Forklifts powered by Li-ion batteries will surpass the proportion of those powered by lead-acid batteries in electric forklifts by 2025 in China and some European countries, predicts Interact Analysis.

by Maya Xiou

It is expected that by 2030, the global market share of Li-ion models will exceed 50 percent in all classes and Class 3.1 will become the first forklift type to achieve more than 50 percent Li -ion power rate. By 2032, many regions, including China, will achieve full Li-ion rate of Class 3.1 forklifts.

Interact Analysis uses the indicator of 50 percent critical turning point year’as an important evaluation criterion. In this case, the term refers to the year in which Li-ion models account for more than 50 percent of the sales of forklift models in the region for the first time.

For example, the chart below predicts that Germany will see the proportion of Li-ion battery Class 1 forklifts exceed 50 percent of Class 1 sales in 2030, meaning that the shipment volume of Li-ion models will exceed that of lead-acid models in this year.

Interact Analysis Li-ion lift truck power prediction table

In 2025, China and a number of key European forklift markets will reach the 50 percent critical turning point for Li-ion forklifts, predicts Interact Analysis.

50 percent critical turning point year for key countries
According to Interact Analysis forecasts, China and a number of European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and Sweden) will have the earliest 50 percent critical turning point year where the proportion of Li-ion/electric vehicle models (Classes 1, 2 and 3) will reach 50 percent as early as 2025.

The Chinese market is predominantly driven by the rapid Li-ion electrification of Class 3.1 forklifts. In 2022, the global shipment volume of Class 3.1 reached 355,318 units, of which 192,731 units were shipped in the Chinese marke, more than 60 percent of the total. The total volume of forklifts shipments in the Chinese market over the same year was 686,000 units, with Class 3.1 models accounting for 28.1 percent.

The penetration rate of Li-ion batteries in major European countries largely benefits from early electrification. In 2022, electric forklifts (including lead-acid, Li-ion and fuel-cell batteries) accounted for 67.8 percent of the global forklift market, 59.5 percent of the market in China, and about 90 percent across the European region.

Compared with the dual line integration of gasoline to electric vehicles and lithium batteries replacing lead-acid batteries in other parts of the world, the European region has a greater focus on Li-ion batteries replacing lead-acid batteries.

The volume of Li-ion forklifts in Africa is expected to reach 50 percent by 2029, primarily due to the dependence of the region’s market on imported forklifts from China. The penetration rate for Li-ion batteries in forklifts in Africa is directly related to the product strategy of Chinese manufacturers.

50 percent critical turning point year for major vehicle models
By 2030, the Li-ion penetration rate of Class 1 forklifts in most countries will exceed 50 percent, with the exception of Japan and South Korea, where local manufacturers dominate the market and have responded more slowly with Li-ion electric vehicle models.

In terms of Class 2 forklifts, North America and Japan are the two largest markets. This is closely related to the level of automation in local warehouses and the type of shelving.

Class 3.1 forklifts will be the earliest model to reach the 50 percent critical turning point, and by 2025, all regions will achieve a 50 percent lithium penetration rate. Class 3.1 is also the only vehicle model to achieve full lithium electrification within the forecast period (before 2032).

Class 3.2 forklifts are expected to reach the critical 50 percent turning point in European countries first, with this expected to occur around 2025.

The forklift database and lithium battery penetration rate prediction model of Interact Analysis cover Class 1-5 forklifts, consistent with the definition of World Industrial Trucks Statistics (WITS).

Editor's note: Maya Xiaou is a research manager at Interact Analysis and has an interdisciplinary technical background in vehicle electrification, system automation and robotics. Based in China, she is the lead analyst for Interact Analysis’ Li-ion battery and forklift research, also covering markets for industrial and collaborative robots.