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Battery Forklift: The Ongoing Power Debate


Battery forklifts seem to be coming more and more the norm. However, a debate still seems to reign over which is better: the internal combustion engine or the electric powered motor (do you fill it up or charge it up?) Vehicles powered by either one would, without argument, be able to perform the same functions but the difference arises in the way each would do these functions.

So how do you decide on what type of to get, a battery forklift of fuel one? Factors which often have to be considered include:


  • Environmental and operating factors and conditions
  • Finance / Costs
  • Repair and maintenance
  • Resources being handled
  • Safety and Employee Union policies
  • The size of the intended group of forklifts (fleet)
  • Use
  • Work shifts

There are however distinct advantages and disadvantages associated with the battery option, as there are with using fuel. These are outlined below.

Battery Forklift



Operating and maintenance costs are low - with no need for as many services and overhauls.

The initial expenditure is higher since battery packs and a charger is required.

Have a longer overall life span.

Not best suited to rough conditions.

There are fewer emissions - such as carbon monoxide. This is a big concern indoors.

An area has to be set assigned for charging - which can cause some inconvenience.

Noise pollution is reduced and there is less vibration. Operators and those in the immediate working area find these aspects very important as it can affect the quality of work.

Not optimized for pushing loads.

An electric motor is more compact and less bulky which often means the vehicle has a larger turning circle.

If the forklift is required to climb long steep ramps the battery will deplete faster.

Recharging the batteries is relatively low cost.

Overtime shifts and longer work cycles will require more battery packs.

Specific operations that require certain speeds can be stored and programmed.

Acceleration is weaker.

To have a complete idea about which power source will meet you needs we also need to consider the internal combustion alternative.

Internal Combustion



The initial purchase price is lower.

Maintenance costs are higher - overhauls etc.

Outdoor and rough conditions do not present a problem.

There is a constant expenditure on fuel.

No area has to be set aside for charging.

There is some noise pollution and the vehicle does vibrate more.

Power output and acceleration is considerably higher.

The vehicle tends to be more bulky than its electric equivalent; therefore it has a reduced turning circle.

Torque on gradients and a slope are considerable.

There are emissions of carbon monoxide and other pollutants which can be harmful in confined conditions.

Can more easily cope with extended work cycles.

Everything has to manually done - speeds cannot be programmed in before hand for specific tasks.

These differences are very basic, but are designed to give you a general idea as to what to expect from each type of power source. For more information it is recommended that you contact a local dealer.