Forklifts are the machines that keep a warehouse moving. They’re perfect for transporting heavy loads through tight spaces. Gas forklifts are the traditional choice, but new electric models have emerged recently. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages.
Here’s how warehouse managers can determine the best type for their business. The choice should be much easier after weighing the pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Electric Forklifts
Electric forklifts operate on a battery-powered motor. They don’t take gas or diesel. All they need is a charging port and they can perform the same tasks as their gas-powered counterparts. These are the main pros and cons of using electric forklifts.
The main benefit of electric forklifts — and EVs in general — is their energy efficiency. The average electric driving system is only responsible for 15%-20% of energy loss compared to 64%-75% in gasoline engines. Implementing a fleet of electric forklifts can slash a warehouse’s power consumption and make operations more efficient.
Side loaders, industrial forklifts and other models specializing in carrying heavy weight have the greatest energy-efficiency potential. Gas forklifts burn through lots of fuel when dealing with heavy loads, but electric versions use minimal energy regardless of the pallet’s weight.
CON: Unstable Battery Life
Electric forklifts must be recharged, which requires warehouses to install more outlets and charging stations. However, even if employees follow a consistent charging schedule, the battery life can still fluctuate. EV batteries are sensitive to adverse weather and tend to overheat if plugged in after reaching 100%.
Electric forklift owners can preserve battery life in several ways. It’s a good idea to avoid charging to 100% and let the batteries cool down so they don’t overheat. Storing electric vehicles in dry areas with moderate temperatures is also important. These simple precautions will keep the battery life more consistent.
Electric forklifts are more eco-friendly than gas or diesel models because they have no atmospheric emissions and keep the air clean. This advantage allows employees and customers to be around the machinery all day without inhaling toxic exhaust fumes. A clean work environment is a productive work environment.
Electric forklifts are perfect for environments where sanitation is a top priority. Supermarkets, chemical plants, food and beverage manufacturers, and other industries with sensitive products stand to benefit the most from electric forklifts’ eco-friendliness.
CON: Slow Speed
Electric forklifts can only go as fast as their batteries allow. However, there is some silver lining to this disadvantage. Even though their top speed isn’t impressive, they can still produce torque from zero RPMs and accelerate quickly, helping workers get in and out of tight spaces. Plus, slower vehicles lead to fewer accidents.
PRO: Low Operation Costs
Due to their energy efficiency and slower speeds, electric forklifts tend to have lower operation costs. Electricity is much cheaper than gas or diesel. They also contain fewer moving parts, which makes maintenance much easier. Warehouses looking to save on fuel and upkeep expenses can take a huge step in reaching their goal by switching to electric forklifts.
CON: High Down Payment
Despite low operation costs, electric forklifts tend to have much higher down payments than gas models because of the expensive batteries. Lithium-ion batteries alone can cost up to $20,000 for bigger varieties like rough terrain and industrial forklifts. This factor might limit a business’s options to smaller electric models like pallet jacks and walkie stackers.
PRO: Less Noise Pollution
Since electric forklifts don’t have an internal combustion engine, they emit much less noise pollution than gas forklifts. Quieter machines make for a less stressful work environment and can reduce occupational hearing loss among employees. It’s also much easier for workers to communicate and stay on the same page in a warehouse with less noise.
CON: Lower Weight Limit
Most electric forklifts have weight limits between 3,000 and 12,000 pounds because they’re lighter and can’t produce as much power as gas. Operators might also notice a decline in an electric forklift’s weight capacity as the battery drains. Businesses that deal with loads frequently exceeding 10,000 pounds might be better off with gas forklifts.
Pros and Cons of Gas Forklifts
Forklifts with internal combustion engines can run on three main fuel types — gasoline, diesel and liquid propane. Gasoline is the cheapest and most widely available, diesel has the longest runtime and propane is the most efficient. Despite these differences, they all share similar advantages and disadvantages.
PRO: Wide Range of Applications
Gas forklifts are more versatile than electric models overall. They are equipped for indoor and outdoor operations, which is a huge plus. They also tend to have much higher payloads. High-capacity gas forklifts can carry up to 158,000 pounds, while average versions have a 5,000-35,000 capacity.
CON: Unhealthy Work Conditions
Despite their impressive performance, gas forklifts contribute to unhealthy working conditions. They emit toxic exhaust fumes all day, filling the warehouse and making breathing difficult. They are also much louder than electric forklifts, which causes stress and potential hearing loss for employees.
PRO: Convenient Refueling
Refueling a gas forklift is much quicker than recharging an electric forklift’s battery. This convenience leads to less downtime and greater warehouse productivity. There’s no need to worry about electrical problems shutting down the whole operation. Fuel always works as advertised.
CON: Unpredictable Fuel Costs
It’s no secret that fuel costs are unreasonably high right now. This factor alone might sway the decision. Although there was a price decrease in 2022, market analysts anticipate another sharp increase for the summer of 2023. Electric forklifts might be ideal if management is worried about fluctuating fuel prices.
PRO: Great Availability
Gas forklifts are more widely available and thus have more affordable upfront prices than electric versions. Well-established businesses might be able to afford electric options, but most smaller companies don’t have that luxury. Greater availability also means there’s the option of renting, buying used forklifts and replacing broken parts.
CON: Less Maneuverable
Although gas forklifts have higher top speeds, they are less maneuverable than electric models. They have wider turning radiuses and take longer to accelerate and decelerate, which can be a problem for tight warehouse operations. Less maneuverability also means it takes longer for employees to become proficient drivers.
Consider Switching to Electric Forklifts
Gas forklifts might be faster and stronger than electric models. However, the latter option has the advantage in energy consumption, eco-friendliness, operation costs, noise reduction and workplace safety. Electric truck performance will also improve as the technology progresses and batteries become more efficient. Every warehouse should consider switching to electric forklifts and reaping their many benefits.