Electrification in the car industry is increasing in volume and lowering in cost. This trend is pushing technology developments as well in the logistics industry, more specifically for lithium-ion-powered forklifts. The move from lead-acid to lithium-ion technology has already been picking up the past few years within the European market. Here the general approach is to simply replace the lead-acid cells with lithium-ion, using the same battery box.
With Toyota Material Handling Europe’s goal to stay ahead in this area, we applied an agile approach to adapt to the new developments continuously happening in this technology: new chemistries, new software intelligence, and combining those. It’s key to be as flexible as possible and being able to adapt to new possibilities.
Presenting the RED design concept
Toyota Material Handling Europe has therefore started its RED project to set out a vision for the future of truck design. RED stands for Radical Energy Design, which is at the heart of the new design concept. Revolutionising forklift design is possible by building lithium-ion battery solutions with modules, which are assembled in-house at Toyota Material Handling.
The thinking behind the RED-project is to eliminate the battery box completely and find alternative locations for the individual energy modules. This gives us the freedom to completely redesign the truck, answering to various customer benefits.
Toyota’s RED-project is focused on developing future generations of electric trucks. The battery cells are distributed throughout the design of the truck, which reduces the overall size without compromising power or performance. Moreover, the long lifespan of a lithium-ion battery and the possibility for reuse during multiple lifetimes of the trucks guarantee a long-term value for customers.
Lithium-ion allowing for new design
In a perfect example of Toyota Material Handling's core philosophy of continuous improvement (kaizen) in practice, we have been thinking out of the box to come up with a revolutionary and innovative new design of the powered pallet truck. Toyota Material Handling’s design team has spent much time on making the first truck redesign compact and perfecting the details, setting new standards in the industry.
Simplicity is having the courage of eliminating rather than adding, which has been the motto in the design of the new BT Levio LWI160. The entire layout of the truck has been optimised by removing the traditional battery tank to facilitate an optimal fit of all components. This first example of the modularised concept introduces a new generation of low-lifter warehouse trucks, marking the start of a new design direction.
Designing a truck isn't primarily about the truck. It's about putting the human being at the centre: the human dimension.
The advantage of locating the modules where space is available, is that we can make the truck smaller in size, lighter, and more energy-efficient.
The reduction in size improves driveability as well as flexibility: smaller trucks are able to work in a wide range of common applications. The centre of gravity can also be moved to enhance performance and ensure the best stability and traction.
By making a machine more compact, smaller and lighter without compromising on performance, the energy efficiency can be brought to a next level. The modularised li-ion battery solution offers easy and fast charging as well as customised energy solutions depending on customer needs.
The renewed design is also ideal for working in confined spaces. A compact machine size offers easy manoeuvring and is perfect to use on-board delivery vehicles. By placing the tiller arm centrally, the driver has unrestricted visibility, making the truck user-friendly, safe and intuitive.
The RED project’s vision goes beyond delivering one new revolutionary truck design, or optimising each individual truck model. The focus is on standardisation of the entire product range. Previously the industry has been focusing on a wide range of specifications among varying battery capacities, lift heights and working environments. Now the time has come to apply the new design as a way to simplify the offer for customers.
The goal is to offer all models designed under the RED project with optimised capacities, a more compact design, fitted with a standardised energy package (that can easily be upgraded to customer needs). By simplifying the offer, we create flexibility, an advantage that will only become more important in the future. For example, in unprecedented times like these, the new design allows for trucks being flexible enough to switch between sites, which is essential when demand is changing quickly and short-term actions are required.
During the next few years, the plan is to develop the design further and apply it to more models in this next generation of powered pallet trucks and stackers. This is just the start of a new era allowing Toyota Material Handling to build further on the same approach. It enables us to optimise future designs even more to offer customers an even better solution for their material handling operations.