Across the U.S., approximately 60% of material handling operations use electric forklifts. But in California, it could soon be 100%.
Proposed regulations from The California Air Resources Board (CARB) will eventually phase out internal combustion (IC) forklifts. Operations will gradually retire any IC forklifts in their fleet, and the sale and purchase of used Spark-Ignited forklifts in California would be prohibited starting January 1, 2026.
Read on to learn about:
- Pending regulations from CARB
- Incentives for using electric equipment
- When to choose a gas or propane forklift vs. electric
CARB Forklift Regulations
Sales of diesel, gasoline, natural gas, and propane forklifts will eventually be prohibited in California. CARB is doing this to meet the state’s air quality and greenhouse gas reduction goals. Restrictions will begin sooner for equipment where a zero-emission option is available and later for rough-terrain and 12,000+ pound capacity lift trucks.
Here's what's being proposed beginning in 2026:
- Restrict the sale, lease or rental of IC forklifts under 12,000 lb. capacity
- Require fleets to gradually retire Large Spark-Ignition (LSI) forklifts over 13 years old starting in 2026
- Restrict IC forklift rentals starting in 2026
- Offer special provisions for small fleets with fewer than 25 forklifts
- End all sales of IC forklifts by 2035
Nothing is set in stone. But if your operation doesn’t have a strategy for converting to a zero-emission fleet, developing a plan should be near the top of your to-do list. Our team of material handling experts can answer any questions you may have and help you take advantage of incentives for making the switch to electric.
An important message about IC forklifts from Mark Andres, President & CEO of TMHNC
Mark Andres, the President & CEO of TMHNC, recently met with the commissioner of CPUC and members of CARB to better understand what you'll need to do to prepare for the pending legislation coming in 2026. Watch the video.
Here are some useful links:
- Zero Emission Forklift Regulation Draft PDF (Feb 2022)
- Proposed changes PDF (July 2022)
- Subscribe to updates from CARB about Zero-Emission Forklifts
- CARB Zero - Emission Forklifts Rulemaking Workgroup Meeting to Discuss Potential Regulatory Concept
Already own an electric forklift or other battery-powered material handling equipment? Earn cash back every time you charge it up.
Why Choose an Electric Forklift?
Electric lift trucks have come a long way in the last five years. The batteries require less maintenance, and electric forklifts are designed for outdoor use.
Lithium-ion batteries, however, are the real game-changer. With a lithium-ion forklift battery, you don’t have to worry about employees forgetting to charge the battery overnight because they can fully charge in an hour and can be opportunity charging during breaks. Also, lithium-ion batteries are virtually maintenance-free. They don’t require watering, cleaning or equalizing.
Another important selling point of electric forklifts: zero tailpipe emissions, which means a cleaner, safer work environment for your staff. They’re also much quieter than IC forklifts, which improves employee comfort and safety.
Here are a few more reasons to use an electric vs. propane forklift:
- Lower cost of ownership – no engine tune-ups and fewer parts to replace
- Get paid to go electric – take advantage of cash incentives from CARB
- Avoid the hassle – of reporting and retiring your IC equipment
Concerned about the expense of replacing forklift batteries? We’ve got you covered. TMHNC offers lease contracts where you return the forklift before the battery needs to be replaced. Learn more about when to finance vs. lease a forklift.
Reasons Not to Buy an Electric Forklift
The proposed regulations would not take effect until 2026 and we are still selling IC forklifts. For certain operations, they're simply a better option.
Here are a few reasons to use a diesel or propane vs. electric forklift:
Electric forklifts cost 10-15% more than diesel or LPG forklifts. As we like to say, with an electric forklift, you pay for the fuel upfront. While the upfront price of an IC forklift is lower, they cost more to maintain and ultimately cost more to own long-term.
Most electric forklifts come standard with a lead-acid battery. That means operators must be vigilant about charging the battery overnight because lead-acid batteries need eight hours to charge and eight hours to cool down in order to power the forklift for a full workday. Forgetting to recharge could have serious consequences.
Multi-shift operations need either a fast-charge system to juice batteries during breaks or spare batteries that get changed at the end of each shift. Review OSHA’s requirements and recommendations for a battery charging and changing station before making your purchase.
Lithium-ion forklift batteries are the superior option because they charge up quickly and don’t require a charging or changing station. They also add $17k-$20k to the purchase price.
Our friendly forklift experts can help you calculate whether an electric forklift and/or a lithium-ion battery is worth the extra expense upfront.
If your forklifts work in a big yard, a propane forklift may be the way to go. In other words, if it would take more time to drive the forklift back to charge it up than simply swap in a new propane tank, an LP forklift might be the more efficient option.
As mentioned above, CARB seeks to limit the sale of used IC forklifts starting in January 2026. If your operation buys equipment with the intent to sell it down the road, keep this proposed deadline in mind.
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