Gas Versus Electric Forklifts – Which Is Better?

by John Sullivan on December 1, 2020
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Gas vs Electric Forklifts Which is Better

Internal combustion engine (ICE) forklifts were standard equipment for years. But just like in the car world, electric forklifts have evolved and became more popular. The batteries require less maintenance, and electric trucks are no longer limited to indoor use.

So which is better, a gas-powered or electric forklift? Let’s review the Pros and Cons of each....

electric versus gas forklifts

Why Choose an Electric Forklift?

Generally speaking, electric forklifts have a longer life than Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) forklifts. This is because electric forklifts have far fewer moving components than ICE forklifts.

Electric forklifts also require less maintenance. There are no engine tune-ups, no spark plugs, etc.

Another important selling point: electric forklifts have zero tailpipe emissions, which means a cleaner, safer work environment for your staff.

Lastly, an electric forklift is also much quieter. This can also be beneficial to your employees’ comfort and safety.

WAIT, one more... right now CARB is offering incentives for electric forklift owners

If you're thinking about electric, download our free Electric Forklift Buyer's Guide.   Or get a free consultation to see if Electric forklifts are right for your operation

Video: Advantages of Electric Forklifts

Reasons Not to Buy an Electric Forklift

Electric forklifts are more expensive upfront than an ICE forklift. That said, the cost of ownership is lower in the long run.

An operation with a single forklift must be vigilant about charging the battery overnight. Batteries typically need to charge for eight hours to power the forklift for a full workday. So, forgetting to recharge could have serious consequences.

Fast-charge systems and spare batteries are available, and a good option for multi-shift operations. Batteries can be juiced during a lunch break and/or changed out at the end of a shift. However, changing batteries is a serious operation. Review OSHA’s requirements and recommendations for a battery charging and changing station before making your purchase.

difference between ICE and electric lift trucks


When to Choose an ICE (Gas-Powered) Forklift

When purchase price matters. ICE forklifts have a lower upfront cost by about 10-15%.

Also, unlike electric lift trucks, your productivity never has to suffer because someone forgot to recharge the battery last night. Add some gasoline or diesel, and it’s go time.

Reasons to Avoid an ICE / Gas Forklift

What you save in upfront costs may end up as a loss in the long term. Just like a gas-powered car, an ICE requires engine maintenance.

Gasoline and diesel lift trucks can’t be used indoors. Liquid propane-powered trucks are an option - with some limitations.

Some material handling environments, such as those that handle food, are required to use electric forklifts.

Other Considerations

The cost and availability of fuel are important factors. For example, some operations choose diesel-powered trucks because they have the fuel on-site. Other businesses may find significant savings using electric power versus gas. 

If you’re still undecided, this short, five question quiz can help you determine the right forklift to meet your needs. Or contact us anytime to discuss the best option for your business. We offer new and used forklifts as well as forklift rentals.

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Further Reading:

Quiet Clean and Green Electric Forklifts

Topics: Electric Forklifts, Internal Combustion, Forklift FAQs

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