Updated: Nov 23, 2021
I’ve been thinking lately about the options for forklift motive power and wondering why we aren’t seeing a gallop away from Petrol/LPG and diesel toward electric forklifts.
I’m an unreconstructed petrolhead who just loves the sound of a V8 Mustang or the thunder of a big Cummins diesel but I’m finding that the more I look at the forklifts we sell and lease the more I wonder why they aren’t just about all-electric.
More and more the for and against arguments are coming down on the electric side of the fence and at this point, I’m talking practicality and economics here - I’ll get to environmental later. The fact is that on a whole of life basis it’s a bit of a no contest, particularly since the arrival of seriously good lithium-powered machines such as our own Hangcha forklifts. The initial difference in the purchase cost is soon overtaken by the fuel savings alone. We recently did an exercise for a prospective client who runs 24/6. The lithium 3.5-tonne forklift cost approximately 40% more than the diesel. The fuel savings recovered this in less than 18 months and from then on over a 60-month projection the lithium unit cost around $550 a month less in fuel. Service costs for lithium electrics are minimal – there’s no oil or filters to change, no spark plugs, no radiator coolant, not even any battery checks and topping up.
Ah, but what about the operational issues for electrics? Normal wet cell batteries cope just fine with a single shift light loading job. If it's hard out and multi-shift, lithium takes care of things through opportunity charging so no power drop-off during the day and no battery changing between shifts and eliminates all the hassles of battery management. And of course, you’ve already got rid of LPG bottle filling and storage or diesel re-fueling the day you waved the engine-powered trucks goodbye.
What about the type of work that engine-powered forklifts traditionally do? Heavy stuff like timber and steel and empty containers outside in the open where it is dusty and it rains? Well, I can’t speak for every brand but I know that Hangcha is IPEX-rated for outdoor use and have machines up to 16 tonne capacity in their range so there’s not much we can’t tackle.
The other big one is of course the environmental benefit. Yes, we all heard the outrage over the ”Üte Tax” and as a petrolhead, I understood it as there aren’t too many options for a farmer or contractor at present, but they're coming quicker than we may think. So as forklift suppliers and users, surely we’re in a position to help reduce emissions and do our bit for the environment, particularly if you can actually do yourself a bit of financial good as well?
Makes sense to me and I hope to you as well. If it doesn’t, you probably stopped reading after the first sentence anyway.
Cheers for now.