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Fuel Types

Electric forklifts: clean and quiet for indoor use

Electric forklifts are really the best choice for warehouses, manufacturing applications, and other indoor use, for two primary reasons. One is that they produce zero emissions — if you are going to be using your forklift indoors, this is a very important consideration. Of the internal combustion (IC) models, only propane (LPG)-fuelled lifts can be used indoors, and they still require very good ventilation. Diesel-powered models are not normally used inside due to the fumes. The other primary advantage is fuel cost. Electric forklifts have a lower cost per hour of operation than any of the internal combustion (IC) models. This helps to offset one of their disadvantages – their higher initial cost. New electric forklifts can cost 20% to 40% more than similarly-rated IC forklifts.

Additional advantages of an electric forklift include quieter operation – another big indoor advantage – and no fuel storage requirements. Because they have fewer moving parts and are often used in cleaner environments than IC trucks, they also tend to have a longer lifespan.

The biggest downside of an electric forklift is the battery downtime. Electric forklifts are powered by large, heavy, lead-acid batteries – the same kind found in your car, but considerably larger and more powerful. The batteries typically provide enough power for one standard eight-hour shift, which translates into 5 or 6 hours of constant usage.

Internal Combustion (IC) Forklifts

Internal combustion (IC) forklifts burn fuel in engines similar to car engines. They’re the most common choice for outdoor use. In addition, only IC forklifts are capable of handling the largest loads – if you require greater than 7 Ton capacity, you definitely need an internal combustion engine.

IC forklifts can run on petrol, diesel fuel, liquid propane (LPG), or compressed natural gas (CNG). Operating costs are generally highest for petrol and lowest for diesel, with propane and CNG somewhere in the middle. The choice is often made based on existing vehicles and equipment: if you already have diesel vehicles and fuel storage, it’s best to go with diesel forklifts as well.

One of the main advantages IC forklifts provide is the ability to be refueled on the fly: simply fill it up at a fuel pump or load a new propane canister on and your forklift is ready to continue working in no time. They are cheaper to buy than electric forklifts, but cost more per hour to run.

IC forklifts also stand up to certain types of misuse better than electric lifts – specifically, using a forklift to push or tow loads, instead of lifting and driving – and usually have better acceleration and top speeds. In large outdoor work sites, this can be an advantage.