With such a wide range of forklift types available, there is a lift truck out there to suit every business need but which is the right one for you? What are the advantages and disadvantages of electric forklifts vs propane forklifts and how can you choose between a diesel forklift and an LPG forklift? We take you through the pros and cons to diesel, gas and electric forklifts.
The preferred environment for a diesel forklift is an outside one. This is because of the health risks associated with diesel exhaust fumes. Catalysts and purifiers are available and, when fitted on the exhaust of a diesel forklift, can reduce emissions sufficiently for occasional indoor use.
Advantages of diesel forklifts
• Reliability is generally improved with diesel forklifts due to their simple engines and mechanics
• Refuelling a diesel forklift is very quick and takes around five minutes
• The running costs of diesel forklifts vs electric or gas forklifts tend to be lower
• On a site with a gradient, a diesel forklift with its higher torque will offer more power
• Diesel is a cheaper fuel than the commercial propane required for gas forklifts
• Because they don’t have a rearward gas cylinder, diesel forklifts have greater rear visibility
Disadvantages of diesel forklifts
• Emission issues from diesel engines are well documented
• Diesel forklifts are only suitable for prolonged use in outdoor environments
• Operators of diesel forklifts often find they create a very noisy working environment
• The maintenance costs, including regular filter and oil changes of diesel forklifts vs electric forklifts are relatively high
• The total weight of a diesel forklift is higher than that of an electric or gas forklift
• Diesel storage is subject to tight controls
Forklift Types – Electric forklifts
An electric forklift does not have an internal combustion engine but is powered instead by an electric motor run on rechargeable industrial batteries. When it comes to comparing electric forklifts vs propane forklifts, it is important to remember that only trained personnel should charge electric forklift batteries. The correct charger will be required and batteries should be watered after they have been fully charged.
Advantages of electric forklifts
• The environmental credentials of electric forklifts are better than those of gas or diesel forklifts
• Electric forklifts are very manoeuvrable and great for smaller or indoor areas
• The lack of fuel makes electric forklifts cheaper to run
• Maintenance on electric forklifts tends to be relatively cheap
• Electric forklifts are easier to drive but are still subject to health and safety guidelines
• The relative quietness of electric forklifts makes for a more pleasant and healthy working environment
• Hour by hour, electric forklifts are cheaper to run
Disadvantages of electric forklifts
• Electric forklifts are generally not suitable for wet or outdoor use
• Battery recharging times are the biggest issue of electric forklifts
• Additional batteries may be required to avoid operator down time
• Battery recharging stations are subject to strict controls
Forklift Types – LPG forklifts
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) comes in two common commercial forms. Commercial propane and commercial butane. It is commercial propane that is used to power forklift trucks and the terms ‘propane forklift’, ‘gas forklift’ and ‘LPG forklift’ are interchangeable. LPG forklifts are powered by an on-board tank, which is removed and then replaced or refilled when it is empty. As with all internal combustion engines, commercial propane powered engines emit carbon monoxide, which can be harmful if used without adequate ventilation.
Advantages of LPG forklifts
• Gas forklifts are more competitively priced than either electric or diesel forklifts
• Gas forklifts can be used inside the warehouse and outside in the yard
• The acceleration and final travel speed of a gas forklift is higher than that of either diesel or electric forklifts
• Gas forklifts are very manoeuvrable
• LPG forklift parts are easily available and competitively priced
Disadvantages of LPG forklifts
• Maintenance costs for gas forklifts are relatively high
• The gas cylinder on an LPG forklift can partially obscure a rear view
• Winter servicing is recommended to ensure gas forklift cold weather capability
• A gas forklift is more likely to unexpectedly run out of fuel
• Gas forklifts rely on fossil fuels, the price of which is rising
• Issues with gas forklifts can go undiagnosed, leading to expensive fixes
• LPG storage is subject to tight controls
Fuel storage and battery charging
It is important to remember the hazardous nature of forklift fuels and batteries. Providing space for the required safe storage facilities may be a factor in your decision regarding which forklift is the best for you.
Fuel storage – LPG gas forklifts
LGP gas storage is covered by UK law. Gas cylinders must be stored upright and within a secure location, for example a cage that is at least three metres away from buildings or public places. Only authorised people should have access to this location. Older cylinders should be used first and appropriate warning signs placed.
Fuel storage – diesel forklifts
Diesel fuel is subject to aging and degradation and should be stored in a careful and systematic manner that keeps storage systems clean and fuel out of contact with zinc or copper. Water from condensation will need to be drained and a filtering system established. Diesel tanks should be emptied and cleaned at least once every 10 years.
Battery charging safety – electric forklifts
The batteries used to power electric forklifts are potentially hazardous and recommended practices should be followed. A battery charging area should be designated and have fire protection, adequate ventilation, a water supply, an emergency phone and neutralisation materials as well as appropriate signage.
How to choose the correct forklift
When choosing the right forklift for your business it is important to think about your needs and business location. There are some situations where the decision is easier, for example food distribution centres should only really consider using electric forklifts but, if your storage is outside, these will not be right for you. There are many elements to consider and we recommend shopping around and taking advice from manufacturers.
As you can see there are several forklift types to choose from and each one is better suited to certain conditions, and this is only the start of the story. Employee training is vital for the safe and smooth running of all forklifts and lifting equipment. AFTT offer a comprehensive range of fork truck courses. Get in touch with us today to find out more and obtain a free, no-obligation quote for your training needs.