Do end-users really care how their forklift is powered as long as it gets the job done? The answer is yes, though the reasons why aren’t quite as cut-and-dried. Depending on who you ask and what their preference is, customers rationales are different. A sample of responses culled from the Material Handling Professionals discussion group on LinkedIn is below.
“It boils down to application. What is the particular facility? If it’s strictly manufacturing, as in a machine shop or assembly plant, then propane would probably be the way to go. For food production, the risk of odor contamination makes electric the preferred power source.”
– Rory Stubbs, Sales and Acquisitions at Advantage Forklift Ltd.
“Propane! It is a clean-burning fuel, so it is safe even indoors. And there is added safety in being able to hear a propane-burning engine. If you run out of fuel, it’s much easier and quicker to bring a full tank to the forklift than push it to a charging station.”
– Chad B. (Trey) Gledhill, CPIM, APICS-certified Distribution Manager
“A significant number of users do not know what alternatives are available to them and what the compromises are. That is where the materials handling profession comes in and provides the consultation and the recommendation. This is part of the reason why some of us believe this industry will never grow away entirely from the need for a ‘hands-on’ touch.”
– Bill Ryan, Vice President and General Manager at LiftOne, a division of Carolina Tractor & Equipment
“If you can stomach the additional battery and charger on the front end, then the battery refill cost is almost nothing through its whole life. In other words, you pay for most of the fuel up front and a couple of dollars to fill the battery instead of $40 or more to fill an LP tank. And the battery truck chassis cost a lot less to maintain.”
– Dana Johnson, Capital Equipment Sales at Herc-U-Lift
“If you calculate the total ownership cost, the battery-operated forklift is always cheaper. The initial cost is high, but with today’s AC systems the downtime is much less.”
– Dhanaji Sawant, Managing Director at MHE Next Engineering Pvt. Ltd.
“For a forklift driver, the real end-user, driving inside as well as outside, hybrids are very promising. At low speeds, they are quiet but still have enough torque. At higher speeds and when hydraulic power is really needed, the diesel or LPG engine jumps in. No fuss with empty batteries, and reduced fuel consumption means longer stints between refueling.”
– Arnoud-Jan Schut, Product Data Specialist at MCFE BV
“For outdoor applications, the cost analysis I have done always favors diesel by a bunch over propane. Also, diesel storage is much less expensive to install and dispensing is less dangerous/explosive than propane. Many municipalities require propane to be stored 100 feet or more from any occupied buildings, which can also rule it out based on the space available.”
– Michael Shamrell, Director Warehousing/Distribution Optimization at Supply Chain Edge