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Electric Forklifts vs Propane Forklifts vs Diesel Forklifts

The Advantages of Electric Forklifts

  1. Electric forklifts have zero tailpipe emissions resulting in a better and more safe work environment for the employees
  2. Electric lift trucks produce less noise during operation which results in a better and more safe work environment for the employees
  3. Outside, on – site fuel storage is eliminated which reduces liability
  4. The cost of fuel is eliminated, ie save approximately $26,000 in propane over 5 years using a 5,000 lb capacity forklift 6 hours a day, 5 days a week
  5. Spend less on planned maintenance and repair maintenance, ie Electric lift trucks don’t have engines, transmissions or radiators
  6. Capacity ratings and stability are usually better at high lifting heights, partly due to a lower center of gravity
  7. Turning radius specifications are typically better which can increase storage capacity, reduce product and truck damage and / or increase productivity
  8. Rearward visibility is often better due to the absense of a propane cylinder but a non issue when compared with diesel forklifts
  9. Longer major component life can be expected when compared with propane forklifts but questionable when compared with diesel forklifts
  10. Operator productivity is often higher because there are typically fewer hand / arm / foot movements required to operate an electric lift truck
  11. Overall, when placed into the right application, the electric forklift will usually have the lowest total cost of ownership when compared with diesel and propane forklifts
  12. The debate is on over whether electric forklifts are more green than diesel or propane forklifts. At issue is how electricity is generated and how spent batteries are recycled
  13. There are fewer waste fluids to dispose of, ie no engine, transmission or coolant fluid changes to worry about
  14. In the design of the electric forklift, braking happens automatically and electrically as soon as the operator’s foot is removed from the gas pedal resulting in less brake wear
  15. The hour intervals between services are usually longer resulting in less cost and truck downtime over it’s useful life

The Disadvantages of Electric Forklifts

  1. They may or may not meet performance expectations in applications that require high and / or constant duty drive line torque, ie ramps, chiselling…. 80 volt systems are best
  2. The cleaning, watering and charging requirements of the expensive industrial battery are very important and may not be manageable, particularly in a multi -shift operation
  3. Forgetting to charge the battery overnight could result in significant productivity consequences the next day, particularly when the business operates with only ( 1 ) forklift
  4. May or may not meet performance and reliability expectations when exposed to cold, wet weather or abusive and corrosive applications
  5. Initial purchase price or capital cost is higher when compared with propane and diesel forklifts
  6. Adequate ventilation is required around the forklift when the battery is being recharged
  7. Operating in freezing temperatures will damage the truck and / or battery unless certain precautions are taken
  8. Battery chargers have certain voltage and amperage requirements, particularly during start up. An existing electrical service may or may not meet these requirements
  9. In multishift operations, spare batteries, along with a changing area, may or may not be required. Fast charge systems are available and may eliminate the need for spare batteries

The Advantages of ( LPG ) Propane Forklifts

  1. There is little risk associated with running out of fuel other than the inconvenience of having to change propane cylinders
  2. Initial purchase price or capital cost is lower when compared with electric and diesel forklifts
  3. The debate over whether propane emissions are cleaner than diesel continues
  4. Better than most electric forklifts ( not all ) when the application requires high and / or constant duty drive line torque
  5. Acceptable for most indoor applications provided that other WorkSafeBC criteria is met. May or may not be acceptable for food handling

The Disadvantages of ( LPG ) Propane Forklifts

  1. Not as effective in applications that require high and / or constant duty drive line torque when compared to diesel trucks
  2. Rearward visibility off the back end of the counterweight is restricted due to the location of the propane tank
  3. Liability exposure, ie there is always the possibility of a fuel system leak while the truck is indoors. Also, operators need to be trained on the safe handling of propane fuel
  4. Fuel cost is higher when compared with electric and diesel forklifts
  5. Possible WorkSafeBC injury claims due to the weight and frequency with which propane tanks are changed, ie +/- every 6 hours of use unless there is a bulk fill station on – site
  6. Propane forklifts are more difficult to start and operate reliably when operating in freezing temperatures
  7. Expect overall planned and repair maintenance costs plus the total cost of ownership to be the highest of the ( 3 ) options
  8. The cost of fossil fuels will likely climb dramatically in the years ahead
  9. Propane fuel is not always readily available in remote locations

The Advantages of Diesel Forklifts

  1. The total cost of fuel is typically less when compared with propane forklifts
  2. Diesel forklifts produce more drive line torque at low RPM when compared with propane and electric forklifts
  3. Rearward visibility is better when compared to propane forklifts
  4. Overall planned maintenance and repair maintenance is usually less when compared with propane forklifts, ie no tune – up components
  5. The debate over whether diesel emissions are cleaner than propane emissions continues
  6. They have a lower total cost of ownership when compared with propane forklifts but not electric forklifts
  7. Longer engine life is expected when compared with propane forklifts

The Disadvantages of Diesel Forklifts

  1. Not suitable for indoor use without expensive emissions accessories and proper ventilation
  2. Sometimes the capital cost of diesel forklifts can be more expensive than propane forklifts
  3. A bulk tank for fuel storage is sometimes required and is an extra cost above and beyond the cost of the forklift. Municipal requlations may apply to the tank installation
  4. The cost of fossil fuels will likely climb dramatically in the years ahead