With eco-friendly operations becoming more popular, many companies are considering a switch to electric-powered fleets. In fact, Statista projects that 60% of forklifts sold worldwide in 2030 will be electric. But electrifying your forklifts demands thoughtful consideration. This article sheds light on 5 critical factors to consider to make an informed decision.
Consider the impact of emissions. Not only do they contribute to climate change. They also pose health risks to operators and other employees.
For example, diesel forklifts release harmful chemicals and particles into the air. This makes them unsafe for indoor use. Gasoline forklifts are better than diesel in this respect. But they still contribute to emissions, as do gasoline cars. Propane is a cleaner alternative to gasoline and diesel, as it burns more efficiently.
Still, the best choice for low emissions is electric forklifts. They run on batteries and produce no harmful fumes during use. This makes them eco-friendly and safe for indoor operations.
Think about operator comfort. Engine-type forklifts have a complex design. They have many moving parts, such as pistons driven by controlled explosions. While this design powers the truck, it creates issues for operators. Eight hours on a gas forklift means noise, vibration, and fumes. Each of these can cause fatigue.
Electric forklifts don’t have a complicated internal combustion system. Instead, they have a battery, motors, and wiring. Without so many moving parts, electric forklifts offer a quieter, smoother, and odor-free operation.
However, not every forklift driver will warmly embrace a switch to electric forklifts. Some veterans prefer gas forklifts because they’re used to them. Open, honest communication helps see if they have serious reasons for not liking the change. Or if they need some extra time to adjust.
It’s important to consider maintenance requirements. Engine-powered forklifts need a lot of upkeep. For example, changing the oil, replacing filters, and checking on fan belts. These jobs take up a lot of time and can be costly.
Looking at electric forklifts, it’s a different story. There’s no complex combustion engine to worry about, which cuts down on much of the usual work and the costs. Electric forklifts still need some care. But the requirements are less demanding. For instance, needing to grease moving bits and change gear oil.
How fast and convenient will it be to refuel or recharge? Some forklift fuel types are quicker and easier than others. For example, diesel or gasoline forklift operators may have to drive them to a pump to fill up. Or, they’ll have to bring the fuel to the forklifts via mobile pumps or gas cans. Propane forklifts require fuel cylinder swaps for refueling. This is relatively fast and convenient. But it exposes them to both frostbite and musculoskeletal injury.
Electric forklifts offer a more straightforward method: plug them in. But charging takes time. Lead-acid batteries typically need 8 hours of charging and an equal cooling period. This can negatively impact productivity. Lithium-ion batteries are a faster-charging solution. However, they cost significantly more compared to lead-acid.
Electric forklifts tend to cost more at first compared to internal combustion trucks. You’re effectively paying for future fuel when you buy the battery. You’ll also need to buy a charger, which adds extra expense. Engine forklifts spread fuel costs out with each cylinder swap or tank fill-up.
But, as time goes on, electric forklifts could cost less overall. For instance, electrics need less maintenance, which cuts down on expenses. Electric forklifts can also save you money on fuel. This depends, however, on how the price of electricity compares to propane gas, which varies by region.
Going electric with your forklifts is a significant choice. Electric forklifts can offer an environmental advantage and be gentler on operators. However, internal combustion trucks are faster to refuel and cost less upfront. Consider these factors and the specifics of your business. That will help you make the best decision for your company, operators, and the environment.
About the author
Alex Hilke is the founder of Forklift Authority. He’s passionate about making complicated material handling topics more accessible to everyone. You can discover his practical insights and helpful resources at ForkliftAuthority.com.