Electric Forklifts: Clean and Quiet For Indoor Use

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Electric forklifts are really the best choice for warehouses, manufacturing applications, and other indoor use, for two primary reasons.

One is that they produce zero emissions -- if you are going to be using your lift truck indoors, this is a very important consideration. Of the internal combustion models, only propane-fueled lifts can be used indoors, and they still require very good ventilation. Gas and diesel-powered models can't be used inside at all.

The other primary advantage is fuel cost. Electric forklifts have a lower cost per hour of operation than any of the internal combustion (IC) models. This helps to offset one of their disadvantages - their higher initial cost. New electric forklifts can cost 20% to 40% more than similarly-rated IC forklifts.

Additional advantages of an electric forklift include quieter operation - another big indoor advantage - and no fuel storage requirements. Because they have fewer moving parts and are often used in cleaner environments than IC trucks, they also tend to have a longer lifespan.

Below is a quick visual summary:

Electric Forklift Specifications

Maximum available capacity

10,000 - 15,000 lbs.
Power source Battery
Costs Higher purchase price
Lower operating costs
Best used Indoors
Typical Applications Indoor warehouses
Refueling time 16 hours to recharge a battery
20 to 45 minutes to change batteries

Operating costs and benefits

In addition to the purchase price of a new or used electric forklift, you need to consider the yearly operating costs. This is an area where electric lifts excel.

The biggest downside of an electric forklift is the battery downtime. Electric forklifts are powered by large, heavy, lead-acid batteries - the same kind found in your car, but considerably larger and more powerful. The batteries typically provide enough power for one standard eight-hour shift, which translates into 5 or 6 hours of constant usage.

Charging a forklift battery takes 8 hours, plus an additional 8 hours of cooling time before it can be used. Due to this slow charging speed, if you need forklifts for two or three-shift operations, you will have to buy extra batteries so you can always be charging the next one, adding $1,000 to $2,000 to the purchase price.

Other disadvantages include the need for a battery charging station. The chargers should be located in a dry, ventilated, and temperature-controlled location. If you have multiple batteries, you will also need special cranes to change the batteries.

New electric forklifts

On average, new standard-capacity (4000 pounds) electric forklifts range from $15,000 to $25,000. Add an additional $2,500 to $5,000 for a battery and charging system. The size of the battery and operating time between charges is a factor in the purchase price of the forklift. Average lifts use a rechargeable lead-acid battery that will operate for five to six hours between recharges.

In the 3,000-pound load capacity range, prices for electric and combustion lifts are fairly equal. When it comes to larger capacity forklifts (5,000 pounds or more), electric prices are higher.

Hyster has been manufacturing forklifts since the 1920s. The company offers 3-wheel electric lifts, 4-wheel cushion tire lifts, electric pneumatic tire lifts, and more. The 3V30-35ZMU Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) model is perfect for indoor use. It also offers a compact design and tight turning radius. Prices for this model will depend on the choice between a 48- or 72-volt system.

Used electric forklift prices

Used electric lifts average between $5,000 to $10,000. This can be compared to the cost of used internal combustion lifts starting at around $10,000. Komatsu offers Electric Trucks in 1 to 2 ton models and larger capacity models from 2 to 3 tons. Three and four wheel styles are available in the smaller capacity. Larger capacity lifts are available in four-wheel models. Prices are based on capacity and model.

Toyota has been manufacturing forklifts since the 1950s. In 1999, the company introduced the System of Active Stability (SAS). This electronic system is designed to sense and prevent accidents for additional safety. Toyota offers four-wheel electric rider lift trucks, and stand-up rider models. Single- and double-reach lift trucks are also available. Used lifts run from $7,000 to $15,000 for models 2006 and newer.

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