There are plenty of power options for forklifts. No matter what forklift option you select, you will have three choices for powering that vehicle – gas, diesel or electricity.There are obviously benefits and drawbacks of each type, but knowing what your needs are will help you make this decision when you buy or rent a forklift for your business activities.
Obviously, electrically-powered forklifts are the cleanest. They are quiet, emit no fumes, are certainly easy to drive (no clutch!), and repair/maintenance is less expensive. They operate through the use of a battery, which, when housed in the rear of the vehicle, provides excellent counterbalance weight. While all of these upsides are great, there are also “minuses” that must be considered. For example, electric-powered lifts are more expensive initially, if you are purchasing one; as well, they are out of service during battery charging times, unless you purchase a spare battery at significant cost; and the need to be certain that you have the right outlet for charging is pretty critical. If your forklift use includes outdoors application, particularly on non-level areas, moreover, the electric forklift is not for you!
Diesel lifts are great for outdoor use, because the fumes go into the atmosphere rather than into an enclosed warehouse. As well, they get better “mileage” than those with standard gasoline engines. Because diesel lifts also give higher torque, they are good for bigger outdoor jobs. Maintenance costs are lower and the engine life is definitely longer than the standard gasoline engine, and these should be considered when making a long-term decision. On the “down” side, however, these lifts are really loud, and the exhaust fumes can be downright noxious. The diesel-powered lifts, as well, are not particularly good for smaller/tight spaces. They are larger, bulkier and are better suited for larger jobs with maneuverability space.
You will find good prices on both new and used gas-powered lifts, and they are good for use both inside and out, given that fumes are minimal. Because they use a common engine, moreover, parts are easy to find. In addition to being the cheapest of the three, they also have better acceleration and higher travel speeds, if these are important to you. There are negative aspects, however. Fuel costs and maintenance can be high, and, often, your driver can run out of gas without warning, as there are currently no good fuel gauges – sort of like the propane tank on your gas grill! Because of this, duel fuel bottles are pretty much a must. As well, these lifts are prone to leak, and using them to move internally ingested product, such as food and medicine, can cause contamination.
The bottom line is this: You must assess your needs carefully. Once you have accomplished this, you go to a reputable dealer, present your needs, and listen to his/her recommendations. It may well be that you need more than one type, and you need to accept that a single type of power may not serve all of your business needs. In this case, purchasing good used lifts may be preferable to a single new vehicle.