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Q&A: Pioneering sustainable lithium-ion technology

Flux Power’s Li-on battery packs provide a significantly lower total cost of ownership, and customers can expect to see attractive ROI..

Ready for shipping: A forklift truck at Romco puts recycled aluminium into a container. — © AFP
Ready for shipping: A forklift truck at Romco puts recycled aluminium into a container. — © AFP

Flux Power is a company pushing forward with the use of sustainable lithium-ion technology for the electrification of many companies’ commercial and industrial equipment. Flux Power designs, manufactures, and sells sophisticated lithium-ion energy storage solutions.

The company’s innovative technologies are for a range of industrial and commercial sectors including material handling, airport ground support equipment, notably with Delta Airlines, and stationary energy storage.

Flux Power developed the first UL-listed lithium-ion battery pack for material handling equipment. Its solutions increase customers’ performance and improve sustainability and ESG metrics for fleets. To gain an insight into the technology, Digital Journal caught up with Ron Dutt, CEO of Flux Power.

Digital Journal: Can you provide a brief background on Flux Power?

Ron Dutt: Flux Power designs and manufactures energy storage battery packs for a roster of Fortune 500 customers to support industrial operations such as electrifying forklifts for material handling, or a range of airport ground support equipment, and any number of robotic or industrial equipment needs. We designed and manufactured our battery systems with lithium-ion (Li-on) cells to offer longer run times, lower operating costs, simplify operations, eliminate maintenance, and importantly reduce carbon emissions compared with lead-acid battery or propane fuelled equipment.

We’ve carved out a position as the go-to energy transition resource for the largest organizations with over 19,000 battery packs delivered for use on the front lines of some of the largest industrial operations.  We have a team of 130 people in our manufacturing facility and headquarters in Vista, CA, and our recently-opened customer support centre in Atlanta, GA. Our lithium-ion battery packs include a battery management system featuring telematics for full lifecycle visibility into the condition of a battery to provide customers better performing, lower cost of ownership.  As a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional lead acid and propane-based solutions, we’re future-proofing our customers’ climate related risks with platform agnostic innovation for measurable, operations-wide sustainability monitoring. 

DJ: Why does the company focus on industrial vehicles and equipment?

Dutt: Flux Power pioneered industrial Li-on battery packs and continues to set the pace with services and support on top of highly engineered solutions. We formed the company in late 2009, with an initial focus on lithium batteries for automobiles but pivoted to material handling in 2013 as we recognized the large, untapped market and growing demand to move away from powering equipment with lead-acid batteries or propane.  The material handling market of forklifts represents a $2.5 billion annual addressable market for Li-on batteries.

The focus came from the opportunity to bring cleaner, better solutions to large fleets that use industrial equipment, such as forklifts. A significant number of customers were already interested in cleaner, more efficient ways to operate. Introducing our technology gives businesses a path to growing in a responsible way with advanced products and the potential to lower life cycle costs and increase productivity, while improving their environmental footprint.

That initial underlying competency is our intellectual property for lithium-ion battery management systems. Our focus continues to be on educating customers about our services and portfolio of products that make equipment power sources smarter and more advanced than legacy options.

DJ: What about lithium-ion makes it a sustainable, cost-effective solution as opposed to traditional lead acid batteries and propane forklifts?

Dutt: Li-on cells provide longer run times, lower operating costs, simplify operations, eliminate maintenance, and significantly cut emissions compared to lead-acid batteries and propane engines. We deploy lithium iron phosphate (LeFePO4) cells, which do not have the high density and high thermal risk of chemistries using cobalt.

Industrial Li-on batteries have revolutionized the way business is done and have multiple advantages that make them ideal for any application. The battery’s unique properties allow businesses to improve safety, efficiency, and ROI. Li-on batteries have multiple benefits over lead acid counterparts, including faster re-charge times, opportunity charging, long cycle life, and full cloud data reporting. Li-on batteries virtually eliminate hazardous off-gassing and spills, making them safer and more eco-friendly than traditional alternatives.

DJ: Flux Power has driven the electrification of industrial vehicles with Fortune 500 companies, what has been their response?

Dutt: Our customers respond to clean energy solutions for today and the ongoing support we can provide for what lies ahead. Sustainability has become as important as operational efficiency so we provide our customers not only the best available, future-proof solutions but also simplified installation, training, and ongoing services.  That starts with our unique ability to design, manufacture, and test products in-house that can be delivered certified as meeting industry standards for safety, reliability and functionality in a range of unique operating environments.

We predominantly ship products to OEMs for installation in new equipment, but the end-user customer today actually makes the decision on how they want their equipment powered. These customers are large fleet operators that will have distinct requirements whether it’s powering equipment for warehouse shipping or distribution, or material handling for food or luggage on an airline tarmac.

Moving from lead-acid batteries or propane to Li-on requires significant planning and customer effort. Whatever the industrial equipment may be, the need is always operation-critical, and customer response has overwhelmingly been for the most efficient way to integrate into their infrastructure coupled with the assurance of reliable support.

DJ: How can users get the longest life and most productivity out of their battery?

Dutt: Li-on batteries inherently have multiple benefits over the lead acid batteries powering most industrial equipment today. We collaborate with customers to plan for their environment and applications with specific training and support to help them realize faster charge times, lean into opportunity charging, and get the longest lifecycle out of a pack— when it comes to getting the most productivity, the answer is full cloud data reporting.

A sophisticated battery management system with Li-on cells provides longer run times, lower operating costs and simplified operations. Flux Power has advanced telemetry in battery packs with a proprietary system called SkyBMS™ that enables real-time data on system performance as well as remote pack management. That visibility into the health of each battery in a large fleet of equipment can drive multi-shift operations with up to 50% longer run-times and faster charging, longer lifespan eliminating several battery replacement cycles and matching the battery life to the equipment life.

DJ: Where are you expecting Flux Power and lithium-ion batteries to go in the next 5 years?

Dutt: Our customers are at an inflection point for investing in operational efficiency and avoiding industrial emissions. Today we can show the pathway towards 80% cost savings over a 5-year period compared to the lead-acid battery systems a customer may be using to power industrial equipment. Advancements in lithium chemistry can only make that better. These industrial-grade Li-on energy storage systems in five years will have already significantly improved a customer’s environmental footprint and the scalable Cloud-enabled telemetry technologies we can deploy today assure agility even if sustainability goals shift tomorrow. Developments incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) will be underpinning many technology and process advances.

While a Li-on solution may have come at an initial increased cost compared to lead-acid batteries, Flux Power’s Li-on battery packs provide a significantly lower total cost of ownership, and customers can expect to see attractive ROI.

The increasing awareness and attractiveness of Li-on solutions are primary reasons why our customer orders have continually increased since 2022, and we don’t see that slowing down any time soon. Customers are taking significant steps in their sustainability efforts today by driving electrification of industrial equipment. We see macro tailwinds pushing us collectively forward with increased orders and revenue growth into more markets where customers are moving quickly to electrify equipment to meet sustainability goals, particularly airports and distribution centres. After all, we provide smart, intelligent energy in a box capable of driving all sorts of equipment.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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