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Electric vs. Internal Combustion Forklifts

With increased awareness in the late 1990’s from exhaust emissions from forklift operations, an increased look at the need for electric operations was re-energized. With this energy came new innovations such as AC Power and gel-filled batteries. At the same time IC forklifts are making advances to become more environmentally friendly and efficient. Let’s examine both types and see what will fit best for your applications.

Electric Forklift

Forklifts driven by electricity via batteries are environmental friendly, and being fume and noise free, are used primarily for inside operations. The batteries not only power them, but also act as counterweights; helping the forklifts to be more maneuverable, and easier to operate, than engine driven machines. Electric forklifts are cheaper to run from an energy point of view as they can be charged on a lower cost; however, they do need an area to be charged in, and have substantial down time while charging. They have less moving parts, so they are cheaper to maintain and service.

CAT Electric Forklift lifting pallet

CAT Electric Forklift

Internal Combustion Forklift

Cushion Tire Forklift

These forklifts are typically used indoors in applications such as manufacturing, warehousing, bottling and trucking.  They ride on solid rubber tires called cushion tires. They can be powered by either Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), gasoline, Diesel, or can be dual fuel.  Dual fuel means that the cushion tire forklift is equipped with both LPG and Gas fuel systems and can be run on either one but not at the same time.  The engine powers all the functions of the truck, drive, and hydraulics.


CAT Internal Combustion Cushion Forklift

Pneumatic Tire Forklift

This type of forklift is used primarily in outdoor applications where the operating surface may be uneven.  It utilizes larger tires which can either be air filled (pneumatic) or pneumatic shaped solid rubber tires.  Like the cushion tire truck, it can be powered by LPG, Gasoline, and Diesel Fuel or can be dual fuel.  Although pneumatic tire forklifts are intended for outdoor use, it does not perform well in soft materials such as sand or loose gravel.  This is due to the fact that a forklift has no suspension which makes it impossible to maintain tire to ground contact in uneven environments.

CAT GP40N Atlas Studio Forklift

CAT Internal Combustion Pneumatic Forklift

After all this information what else can we conclude? Electric vs. Internal Combustion Forklifts is really a matter of application and needs of the operator. The need to look closely at your needs, and establish what truck will best fit is no easy task. Please use the tools below and contact us today so we can use our 50 years of Material Handling knowledge to benefit your company!

Watch this great video that further explains Electric vs. Internal Combustion Forklifts.

Use this fantastic tool to determine the Cost of ownership between Electric & IC forklifts. Cost Comparison Tool

Contact us with any questions or call 1-800-458-7941

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