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Internal Combustion Forklifts Vs. Electric Forklifts

Industrial Equipment Dealers

When it comes to industrial equipment rental or purchase, you typically have many factors to consider before choosing a particular piece of machinery. For example, should you rent or buy? Should you obtain a new or used piece of equipment? What kind of technology should you look for?    

One important factor to consider is the type of engine the equipment possesses. In particular, you will need to decide between an internal combustion engine, or an electric engine. To help you make your decision before you buy a forklift  (or rent one), what follows is a look at each engine and some of the major pros and cons of each. 

Internal Combustion Forklifts

An internal combustion (IC) engine on a forklift works much like the engine on your personal car or truck, and uses fuel to run. In the case of a forklift for sale or rent, this fuel is usually gasoline, diesel, liquefied petroleum gas, or compressed natural gas. The internal combustion engine is one of the most common type of engine in industrial equipment such as forklifts, and with good reason. Here are a few of their advantages

IC forklifts have a lower upfront cost.

When it comes to upfront cost, IC forklifts tend to be less expensive than electric forklifts, by up to 20 percent. For businesses that need a forklift but do not have the capital to purchase an electric forklift, the lower cost of an IC forklift can be appealing.

IC forklifts are versatile.

This type of forklift can be used both indoors and outdoors, and tends to have a higher load capacity, allowing these machines to be applied to a wide range of jobs and environments without compromising their ability to operate safely.

IC forklifts are faster and easier to refuel.

When you run a multi-shift operation, IC forklifts can be an appealing choice because of the ease with which they can be refueled. A forklift with an internal combustion engine can be refueled in about 5 minutes, allowing it to be used efficiently through multiple shifts.  

Despite their advantages, forklifts that possess internal combustion engines do have some disadvantages that you must also consider before purchasing. Here are a few of them:

Forklift maintenance is more demanding for IC machines.

Thanks to the construction of internal combustion engines, with their large number of moving parts, forklifts that have IC engines tend to require more frequent (and expensive)  forklift maintenance and repair.

IC forklifts create emissions that must be accounted for.

Internal combustion engines release carbon monoxide emissions that must be accounted for and dealt with during indoor use.

Long-term fuel costs are greater with IC forklifts.

Over the long-term, the costs of refueling an IC forklift will be greater than recharging an electric forklift, even though the process is faster and more efficient.

Electric Forklifts

An electric forklift uses a rechargeable battery to power the engine. Environmentally friendly, this type of engine is gaining popularity. Here are a few of the major advantages it offers to owners:

Electric forklifts have lower costs of ownership.

As mentioned above, electric forklifts can cost  more upfront than do forklifts that use internal combustion engines. However, over time, this type of forklift actually has the advantage of costing less. For example, the cost of forklift repair and maintenance, lower fuel costs, and so forth mean that you spend less money over the life of an electric forklift than over the life of an IC forklift.

Electric forklifts improve operator ergonomics.

The comfort of your forklift operators can be an important factor in which type of machinery you choose. When it comes to operator ergonomics, electric forklifts have the advantage. They create fewer vibrations and a more comfortable ride than do forklifts that have internal combustion engines.

Electric forklifts are better for the environment.

When looking at forklifts for sale or forklift rental, you may find that cost is often the most important factor in deciding which machine to buy. However, for many businesses, environmental friendliness is also becoming a priority. Electric forklifts have the advantage of being better for the environment than are IC forklifts. They use less energy and create fewer emissions, making them an ideal "green" machine for industrial and warehouse projects.

Electric forklifts require less maintenance and repair.

Finally, forklift maintenance and repair for electric forklifts are much less than for internal combustion forklifts. The reason is that these machines have fewer moving parts, meaning that they require less maintenance and fewer repairs overall. 

Before selecting an electric forklift, however, you should also understand the disadvantages presented by this type of machine. Here are a few:

Electric forklifts are difficult to use outside.

Electric forklifts can be difficult to use outside, particularly when it is wet. In order to make them safe to use outdoors, they also often require expensive treatments of certain parts of the engine. However, newer technology has become available that allows more electric forklifts to operate outdoors with no issues.

Electric forklifts require more storage space.

Storing electric forklifts also tends to be a bit more complex than for IC forklifts. For example, they can require up to 200 square feet of storage space for the forklift, the battery (or batteries), and so forth. In addition, they need a place where they can be recharged.

Electric forklifts are more difficult to refuel.

It can take significantly longer to replace a battery on an electric forklift than to refuel a forklift with an internal combustion engine. In addition, because batteries must often charge for 8 hours and then cool down for 8 hours in between uses, you may need one battery per shift. This requirement can add significant cost to purchasing and owning an electric forklift. However, some brands of electric forklifts are able to operate more efficiently and run two shifts without recharging the battery. Make sure and ask an electric forklift specialist for details on how this might work for your operation.

  Regardless of which type of forklift rental or forklift for sale you choose to move forward with, the key is to understand what each type of engine provides you and your business. When you can balance factors such as price, environmental friendliness and convenience, you will be better positioned to select the best machine for your needs.