Electric vs IC - What's best for you?

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When purchasing a forklift truck, there are many factors to consider. One important factor is the engine type of the truck, in particular whether you should opt for an internal combustion engine – Diesel or LPG or an electric engine – Lead Acid or Lithium Ion.

IC Engine Forklifts

An internal combustion (IC) engine on a forklift uses fuel to run; diesel or LPG. This engine type is generally the most popular in industrial equipment such as forklifts. There are a range of advantages to using IC engine trucks:

  • Upfront cost generally tends to be less than electric forklifts.
  • IC forklifts are more versatile. They can be used both indoors and outdoors and tend to have a higher load capacity (the Doosan range goes up to 25 tonnes!), which allows them to be applied to a large range of applications.
  • In multi-shift operations, IC forklifts can be a more appealing choice as they can be quickly and easily refuelled.

However, there are some disadvantages which need to be considered:

  • IC engines create emissions that are not environmentally friendly. Because of this, IC engines are becoming more strictly regulated. The most recent standard; Euro-Stage V came into play in January 2019. Find out more about Euro-Stage V here.
  • IC forklifts require more frequent forklift maintenance and repair. This means more downtime and cost.
  • Although the process of refuelling IC forklifts is quicker and more efficient, the cost of refuelling is generally more expensive than that of electric trucks.


Electric Forklifts

An electric forklift uses a rechargeable battery to power the engine. This type of truck is fast becoming more popular as IC engines become more regulated and these forklifts become more advanced. Here are a few advantages of electric trucks:

  • The upfront cost of an electric truck will generally be more than that of an IC truck. However, over time electric will cost less due to lower repair and maintenance costs as well as lower fuel costs.
  • The comfort of operators can be a very important factor in the buying process, and definitely needs to be considered when purchasing a truck. Electric forklifts tend to provide more comfort to operators as they create fewer vibrations than that of IC trucks.
  • Environmentally friendliness is a hot topic and businesses are becoming a lot more conscious of the environmental impact when making a range of decisions, including their materials handling equipment. Electric forklifts have the benefit of being a lot kinder to the environment than that of IC forklifts, through using less energy and creating fewer emissions.

However, there are some disadvantages to electric trucks which need to be considered:

  • Electric trucks can be more difficult to use outside, particularly in wet and harsh conditions. However, newer technologies have become available that allows electric trucks to work better outside in harsher conditions.
  • Storing electric forklifts can be more difficult than that of IC forklifts as they require a lot more space for the trucks, its batteries and also an area is required for recharging. However, the option of Lithium Ion can solve this (we will come on to this a little bit later).
  • It can take considerably longer to charge a battery on an electric truck than refuel an IC truck. Lead acid batteries must often be charged for 8 hours between uses. Multi-shift operations will generally adopt the battery change method to overcome this, however this can be costly. The option of Lithium Ion can also overcome this issue.

As mentioned above, within the electric truck range, there is a second option to that of a lead acid battery truck. Lithium Ion is fast becoming a more popular alternative and has a range of benefits that overcome the disadvantages of standard lead acid battery trucks.

Here are the benefits of Lithium Ion batteries:

  • Lithium ion batteries have higher power efficiency and can be recharged in as little as 1 hour, improving overall truck availability and overcoming the issue of battery change in multi-shift operations.
  • For the same reason, it also solves the storage issues that you currently get with lead acid, as there is no need for additional batteries or battery change stations.

However, it is worth noting that Lithium Ion isn’t suitable for every application, it is of the greatest benefit in multi-shift operations where trucks are running for extended periods and breaks allow for adequate recharge periods. Lithium ion batteries also have a higher initial investment than conventional lead-acid batteries, so it is worth considering whether your application will benefit from the additional cost. 

It is important to ensure that the choice you make is right for your business needs. So make sure you seek advice beforehand and carry out a site survey.

If you need any advice, or have any questions please contact Josh Emmott on 07887952954 or email [email protected].