Electric Forklift VS Propane
Forklifts can be powered in various different ways, for example, diesel, propane, methane, electricity, how do you know which is the right forklift for your business?
When choosing a forklift for your workplace there are many things you must consider, for example, the workplace environment, cost-effectiveness, maintenance, and more.
If you are feeling perplexed by the choice, read on, as this article focuses on comparing the benefits and limitations of electric vs propane forklifts.
Electric Forklifts vs Propane
Let us look at some of the main differences between electric and propane forklifts, that you should know about.
Outdoor Use versus Indoor Use
Propane-powered forklifts (propane is also known as LPG or LP) are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
With the correct type of tires, they can function in all types of conditions, from rain to dirty, gritty environments, which makes them a comparable alternative to diesel forklifts.
The majority of electric lift trucks are not suitable to operate outdoors and are generally best kept for indoor use. Certain types of indoor material handling require the use of an electric forklift for example food, drinks, pharmaceuticals, as well as the use of a forklift in facilities underground.
Another reason electric forklifts are a better choice for indoor use is that they produce much less noise compared to internal combustion forklifts. They also have zero emissions so there are no concerns about workers breathing in harmful gases such as carbon monoxide especially when operating in enclosed spaces.
To refuel a propane-powered forklift the empty propane tank on the lift truck just needs to be swapped with a full propane tank. This is relatively simple and easy, resulting in minimum disruption to work processes. A full propane tank usually lasts about 8 hours, so plenty for one full work shift. A safe, convenient, and secure storage area is also required for the propane tanks.
An electric forklift does not require any tanks and of course tank storage, however, the battery lasts about the length of a shift and must then be charged at the power source overnight or during the following shift. If operators forget to do this, productivity can be affected. To avoid this issue, when the battery discharges, some operators remove it from the forklift and replace it with a fully charged one. Usually changing the battery is less straightforward than changing the tank on propane counterparts. There must also be a specific area for carrying out battery changes and charging.
For the operator, visibility from the rear of a propane forklift can be restricted since the propane tank is attached at the back. Operators must also undertake training when it comes to the safe handling of propane fuel and how to deal with fuel leaks. There is also a risk of injury for employees when handling heavy propane tanks.
Areas for changing and charging batteries for electric forklifts must be well ventilated as explosive gas can be produced when the battery is almost charged. There must also be special safety equipment close by, for example, showering and eyewash facilities in case of acid splashes.
The quieter electric forklift can help prevent operator fatigue which can be aggravated by a constantly noisy environment. Operator fatigue can also be prevented when an electric forklift operates remotely.
Propane lift trucks are reliable, maintaining consistent power as long as there is propane in the fuel tank. They have more torque so they can handle heavy loads and upward slopes easily.
A propane forklift is more likely to be better than an electric forklift for handling constant heavy loads. Heavy-duty applications will also drain the battery of an electric forklift more quickly.
Electric forklifts have better stability due to their low center of gravity. Their turning circle is smaller resulting in better maneuverability in smaller spaces.
When it comes to material handling equipment, maintenance costs can be a significant issue. Electric forklifts have fewer moving parts and therefore fewer parts that can become damaged so they need less maintenance. Compared to propane lift trucks, most of the main components have a longer life and there are fewer fluids to dispose of as there is no radiator or transmission. However, the old batteries are a hazard and must be properly disposed of.
The battery of electric trucks needs regular maintenance; water level checks, cleaning and charging, and so on, which might not be ideal for many two-shift operations. However, with improving technology, such as fast charging, two-shift operations could be doable with an individual battery.
Forklift buyers must consider the total cost of their forklift in the long term. The purchase price for an electric forklift is higher than for a propane lift truck. However, the electric forklift has an overall lower total cost of ownership, due to its lower operating costs.
Propane is a fossil fuel and this fuel type is expensive. Also, prices of fossil fuels may increase in the future, although propane is generally cheaper than diesel fuel, which is one of the other types of fuel sources for forklifts.
When deciding between electric and propane forklifts there are several factors to consider. Electric forklifts offer a more environmentally friendly option, with no emissions. Even though electric forklifts cost more to buy, they have an overall lower total cost of ownership as they need less maintenance and don't have the fuel cost associated with LP forklifts. An electric lift truck is also a better choice for working in smaller indoor spaces.
An LP forklift is should be considered for heavy, constant, and outdoor use as it is more reliable in maintaining constant power. Both propane forklifts and electric forklifts have various safety issues to consider. When it comes to electric vs propane forklifts each has its benefits, the final choice has to come down to the needs of the individual business.