Advantages of Electric Forklifts (with a few drawbacks too)

Manufacturers have made substantial improvements to all models in recent years from diesel, propane, gasoline and especially electric forklifts. Each forklift type has definite advantages and should be used in the proper setting to ensure safety and longevity. Multiple forklift types will be required for larger operations with indoor and outdoor jobs that require lifting large loads.

Electric forklifts fill a very distinct (and expanding) niche for warehouses and companies who are looking to avoid a loud, dirty environment that is often associated with industrial equipment. Forklift owners realize significant advantages in the areas of cost, operation and maintenance. Indoor use is essential for the electric forklift because the clean, dry environment is best for the battery and other systems on-board.

electric forklifts pallet mover

What Does An Electric Forklift Cost?

When looking a lifetime costs of electric forklift ownership and hourly operating costs that range from $0.80/hour to $3.00/hour, they can be very appealing compared to other models. Initial costs for battery charger/fueling stations can easily be offset in the medium to long term.

  • No fuel storage - Electric forklifts are charged on a charging station, so there is no need for gasoline or propane storage outdoors. Liability is reduced as electric charging stations do not present the same hazards that come with storing liquid fuels on-site.
  • No fuel cost - Yes, there are electricity costs involved but they are significantly less than fuel. Fuel prices also fluctuate dramatically, which adds to the uncertainty of future expenses of operating machinery. The electric lift trucks require a recharging of the batteries during the off-shift. Electricity rates are a big component of your cost of operation analysis, but direct comparisons usually reveal significant savings over fuel costs.
  • Low maintenance costs - Electric motors do not require the same extensive maintenance routines to operate at peak efficiency. IC engines are more complicated to maintain. The maintenance routine is simpler since a combustion engine is not present.
  • Electric forklifts have lower cost of ownership - With fuel (electricity), maintenance and operational expenses lower for electric forklifts, your savings will continue over years of use.

What Makes Electric Forklifts So Great? Operational Advantages

  • No emissions - Electric forklift motors do not produce fuel emissions during operation. This advantage is essential when the forklift is used in an area where the ventilation and air movement are limited. There is also nothing to worry about with future EPA emission standards.
  • Low noise - Except for the warning beacon, the electric forklift does not produce engine noise or other types of rumbling in the area. Forklift operators are able to hear important sounds that will indicate the need to stop or adjust the load.
  • High capacity and stability - Newer model electric forklifts are able to support loads of up to 15,000 lb. while reaching the highest shelf on the pallet rack. A low center of gravity creates stability and can handle loads of varying size and weight distribution.
  • Smaller turning radius - A forklift operator will be able to maneuver the machine through narrow areas without bumping into racks, trucks or walls. The smaller turning radius is advantageous in tight spaces.
  • Rear Visibility - In comparison to the propane forklift, the electric forklift is slightly easier to see behind the machine. The operator will have better vision when determining if the rear path is clear.
  • Simpler operation - An electric forklift operator will make fewer arm, hand and foot movements to maneuver through the repetitive tasks.
  • Automatic braking - An operator will notice the braking action that takes place as soon as his foot is lifted from the accelerator. This automatic action reduces brake wear and reduces fatigue for the operator. Breaking also helps recharge the batteries to increase efficiency.

electric forklifts

Electric Forklift Maintenance Advantages

Fewer moving parts means that there are less things that can break down. Without the complexities of internal combustion engines, electric forklifts require much less maintenance. This is always a good thing when managing an equipment fleet. Some specific maintenance advantages are:

  • Fewer waste fluids - Electric engines do not require transmission or coolant fluids. Replacing and disposing of these fluids are not necessary.
  • Long life for components - Electric forklifts offer many years of trustworthy use on every component. Of course the critical parts like the engine also come with multi year warranties.
  • Longer service intervals due to fewer moving parts.

Limitations Of The Electric Forklifts

Most drawbacks are minor, and can be managed with a small amount of planning. Longer recharge times (up to a half hour) vs. refueling times (a few minutes) are what most people worry about. In certain settings, the electric forklift will require additional care to perform at peak efficiency.

  • Industrial batteries require cleaning and regular charging.
  • Additional batteries must be present on-site to prevent downtime.
  • Specialized battery lifts will be required to change the battery in a forklift, and in some models additional training is needed to safely exchange batteries.
  • Facility electrical output will need to meet the voltage and amperage requirements for the charging station. This can be a problem for very old facilities.

It is clear why electric forklifts have played an expanding role in equipment fleets with their safety and environmental strengths. With the advent of fuel cell forklifts the sky is the limit for making the material handling industry a green one. For the average business owner who is looking for a good long term investment, going electric for material handling in indoor areas is an easy choice.