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Electric Forklifts vs Propane Forklifts

Electric Forklifts vs Propane Forklifts: Which is Right for You?

Over the past decade, electric forklifts have become increasingly prevalent throughout virtually every facet of the manufacturing industry. At the same time, however, propane-powered forklifts continue to make up a big part of the U.S. forklift market. Fortunately, since both electric and propane forklifts have their own unique advantages, this news simply means there are more options than ever for consumers.

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Here, we’ll break down the key benefits of electric forklifts, then discuss the key benefits of propane forklifts. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be able to arrive at a much more informed decision regarding which forklift is best for you.

Benefits of Electric Forklifts

  • Enhanced Operator Ergonomics: Electric forklifts generate virtually no noise except from their tires, lifts, or the sounds of their safety backup horns or warning beacons. Even then, this noise is minimal compared to the much louder forklift variants on the market. In addition, electric forklifts typically generate less vibration, which helps to reduce operator fatigue.
  • Better for the Environment: Because electric forklifts have no exhausts and electric forklift motors convert electro-chemical energy into mechanical energy, electric forklifts create zero emissions. Not only is this great for the environment, it also eliminates employee exposure to contaminated air while reducing the need for costly warehouse ventilation. Electric forklifts also generate zero disposal waste (i.e., engine and transmission fluid). As if that weren’t enough, a high percentage of the forklift battery lead is recyclable.
  • Decreased Repair Costs: Electric forklifts are also cheaper to maintain thanks to a number of reasons. For starters, their electric engines have less complex mechanics than their propane counterparts, meaning they’re less expensive to repair. As a result, less planned maintenance needs to be scheduled and performed when electric forklifts are well-maintained.
  • Lower Fuel Costs: Recharging batteries overnight is generally less expensive than replacing gas bottles or filling tanks with fuel on a regular basis. This means that electric forklifts have significantly cheaper day-to-day operating costs than propane forklifts.
  • Ideal for Indoor & Outdoor Use: Thanks to their lack of harmful fumes, greater rear visibility, small turning radiuses, and streamlined designs that allow operators to easily maneuver through tight spaces without bumping into trucks, walls, or racks, electric forklifts are perfectly suited for both indoor and outdoor usage.

A worker at the Frank Family Vineyards uses a Toyota Forklift to move barrels.

Benefits of Propane Forklifts

  • Faster Refuel Times: Compared to their electric counterparts, the time to refuel propane forklifts is minimal. In fact, it generally takes around five minutes or so to change a propane cylinder, while it can take up to eight hours for an electric forklift battery to recharge. So, even though fuel costs are generally lower for electric forklifts, that refueling is needed much more frequently.
  • Longer Running: Not only do propane-powered forklifts have faster refuel times, they also run longer. A propane forklift’s fuel cycle often allows it to operate for up to eight hours before refueling. By comparison, electric forklifts are only able to operate between three to six hours (on average) before needing a lengthy recharge.
  • Low Emissions: Just like electric forklifts, propane forklifts are pretty great for the environment for their own unique reasons. For starters, propane is a clean-burning, non-toxic fuel source. As a result, properly maintained propane forklifts produce less carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, and other emissions than other types of forklifts. And, even though electric forklifts produce zero emissions themselves during operation, there are some second-hand site-to-source emissions produced via the manufacturing and transportation of their batteries.
  • American-Made Fuel: Another fuel-related benefit of propane forklifts is the fact that about 90 percent of the propane used in the US is produced by domestic sources. As a result, this makes propane-powered forklifts a great way to reduce dependence on foreign oil sources while simultaneously decreasing the costs associated with transporting the fuel.
  • Ideal for Indoor & Outdoor Use: Just like electric forklifts, propane forklifts are perfectly suited for both indoor and outdoor use. A big contributor to this is the fact that propane forklifts also give operators high-quality but low-emission performance. In addition, propane forklifts typically exceed nationwide indoor air-quality standards, making them as suitable for indoor use as outdoor use.

used forklifts

As you can see, both electric and propane forklifts have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Choosing between the two can seem like a challenge at first, but learning as much as you can about the nuances of each will help steer you toward the best decision for you and your operations.

Want to see which forklift fuel options are available for your facility? Contact an equipment specialist for an on-site visit and recommendation today!

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