DC power, which has successfully been used in heavy-duty mobile column lifts for years, offers several advantages. The biggest on many peoples’ lists is the ability to work during power outages. Thanks to batteries and a built-in charging system, a lift running on DC power can be raised or lowered even when the electricity goes out.
Gene Byrd, fixed operations director for Ed Morse Automotive Group’s 10 Florida dealerships, recently installed six DC-powered lifts at Ed Morse Cadillac in Tampa.
“Here in Tampa, we’re considered the lightning capital of the world,” Byrd said. “We average a power outage three times a week. With a backup system built right into the lift, we might not have any lights, but we can raise and lower the lifts. There’s no lost productivity, no down time and no safety issues.”
During an outage, any vehicle up on a traditional lift is typically stuck there until power is restored because there is no way to raise the carriage off the lift locks and bring it down. Leaving a customer’s car or truck stranded at the top of a lift for even an hour can cause him or her to be late for work, miss an appointment or have to cancel dinner plans. It might even drive that customer to a competitor in the future. The ability to lower a vehicle can put a customer back on the road even if all other shop equipment is unusable.
New DC-powered lifts are available in light-duty two-post and inground models with lifting capacities up to 12,000 pounds. In addition to working during power outages, these lifts eliminate expensive electrical installations, lower long-term electricity costs, and raise technician productivity.
Battery power has proven itself in the heavy-duty world, garnered rave reviews in light-duty applications and looks to be the next best thing for dealer fixed ops departments.
The battery charger built into the new light-duty DC-powered lift runs on 110V current. Since it doesn’t need more expensive 220V wiring, the installation costs in new construction are significantly lower than those dealers are used to with traditional lifts. It can also be a savings for shops that are replacing old air-powered lifts in bays that already have 110V power. Dealers who install DC-powered lifts could also save on both short and long-term electricity costs thanks to the 110V setups. Switching bays from 220V service to 110V will significantly reduce initial electrical installation costs and may lower operating costs by reducing the amount of electricity used over the life of the lift.
“When you can use 110V, you don’t have to spend all that money to rewire and there’s less down time in the shop during installation,” said Byrd. “It’s just plug and play.”
The first DC-powered light duty automotive lifts were introduced in late 2011. Thanks to DC power and other technical innovations, these lifts are able to raise and lower vehicles two times faster than standard lifts. They only take 25 seconds to move up and 19 seconds to go down.
Germain Nissan in Columbus, Ohio, was an early adopter of the new DC-powered surface lifts. The dealership installed a DC-powered two-post lift in its new Nissan Express Service lane. “The faster we can get the vehicle up in the air and inspected properly, the faster we can get the customers back on the road where they belong,” said Brent Ross, service director. “The biggest benefit for us with the new lift has been speed.”
Since installing the faster lift, Germain Nissan has been able to shave 55 seconds off each lift cycle in the Express Service lane. That has translated into four more completed jobs per day, and Ross projects an additional $33,840 annual incremental profit thanks to the lift.
Back in Tampa, Byrd said his technicians appreciate the speed factor. “The techs who have the fast lifts love them, and the techs who don’t have them want to know when they’re getting them,” he said. “Employee satisfaction translates into employee productivity. If you provide a great working environment with the best tools available, you will see increased productivity, which leads to customer satisfaction.”
If you are not currently in the market for new lifts, but like the features offered by DC power, you could still be in luck. Certain light-duty inground lifts can be retrofitted. Check with your lift supplier to see if yours are compatible. Complete retrofit packages include new hydraulic cylinders, DC power system and controls.
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The initial price for a DC-powered lift will be higher than that of a comparable standard lift, but if you crunch the numbers, you will likely find the additional cost will be recouped through electricity savings and productivity gains in a matter of months. If fast, uninterrupted service allows you to complete just one more job per day, the savings will add up quickly.