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Electric Forklift vs. Diesel Forklift vs. Liquid Propane Gas Forklift

  • September 28, 2012

 Electric Forklift, Diesel Forklift, or Propane (Liquid Propane Gas) Forklift? Which is the best solution for my business?

In the world of forklifts and pallet trucks there are two main types of trucks categorized by their power source.  The Electric forklift carries an internal battery that can be recharged after daily use, the diesel and propane forklifts are a combined category because each uses an internal combustion engine (ICE) fueled by gasoline, diesel, or liquid propane gas.  Both categories of forklifts have benefits and costs that are considerations your business must take before making a decision on a forklift.  This article will talk about the Pros and Cons of both categories to help you better understand each.

Electric Forklifts

In the late 1920’s the first electric forklifts were introduced by Yale Materials Handling Corporation. The Introduction of different narrow aisle and low forklifts meant many businesses were utilizing forklifts in their indoor warehouses. Electric forklifts are typically found indoors because of the clean output of energy, free of gasoline fumes.  On average a full charged battery can provide power for five to six hours of constant use. The benefits of selecting electric forklift include:

-Quiet while in use, which means less noise during operation.

-Can be smaller and more maneuverable because the large battery acts as a counter balance.

-Will save money over time from the low cost of recharging the battery.

-With no engine or transmission your business will save money on service and maintenance costs.

-Electric forklifts are easier to drive, with only two pedals to push (brake and accelerate) productivity increases.



The most important consideration when purchasing a forklift is the location of use, electric forklifts do not perform well in cold outdoor conditions and cannot be used in the rain.  Other disadvantages to purchasing an electric forklift include:

-The initial cost of electric will be higher with a battery, charger, and a special crane for moving the batteries.

-Having to charge a battery causes the inactivity of a forklift and can be inefficient in the event of a power outage or forgotten charge.

-Charging stations typically require large areas taking away extra pallet space.

-The tires on electric forklifts are not made for rocky and heavy duty floor surfaces.

-Forklift batteries require attention when charging, charging when a battery is half full or running a forklift on an empty battery can lower the life of the battery.

-The electric forklift capacity doesn’t have the same maximum capacity of the Internal Combustion Gasoline forklifts.




Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Forklifts

These forklifts are separated into diesel and liquid propane gasoline (LPG) engines.  Both have the same indoor/outdoor functionality and have the highest maximum capacity of forklifts. Yale also manufactures ICE trucks which are typically used for heavy duty types of lifting.  Since the price of fuel has increased ICE trucks have not been as popular as electric trucks, but ICE forklifts still have many components to consider before making a decision. The benefits of purchasing a gas, diesel or LPG forklift include:

-Ability to work after a quick refuel compared to hours of battery charging.

-Capable of reaching faster top and acceleration speeds on most surfaces.

-Built to be more durable and can withstand abuse of towing loads.

-Lower initial purchasing cost, and Longer Engine life.

With so many moving parts ICE forklifts may have higher maintenance and servicing costs. Other disadvantages to purchasing and ICE forklift include:

-Not suitable for indoor use without ventilation.

-Many trucks don’t have a fuel gauge showing the operator how much fuel is left often time resulting in running out of gas without notice.

-There is also a cost for securely storing gasoline, diesel, and liquid propane gasoline near your business.

Whether you select an electric forklift or an internal combustion forklift make sure to define the needs of your business before finalizing your decision!

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