Here at Fork Trucks Direct Ltd, we offer a wide range of diesel, gas or electric forklifts to suit your business needs.
Choosing the right forklift depends on the tasks it must perform, the working environment, and the level of performance and efficiency required. So, if you’re looking for guidance to help you decide which is the right type of forklift for your company to invest in, read on.
Gas, diesel or electric forklifts: How do you choose?
The pros and cons of gas powered forklifts
Forklifts that run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are in many ways the most flexible option of the differently powered forklifts available, and this has made them extremely popular. Unlike diesel powered forklifts, gas powered forklifts are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, and can be run round the clock without stopping to recharge, as is required for electric powered forklifts. LPG powered trucks run on 100% power throughout, maintaining productivity which is especially noticeable when used outdoors where higher speeds are possible.
Often built to be more compact than diesel versions, gas powered trucks are usually easier to manoeuvre than the bigger, diesel forklifts most often used in large, outdoor yards. Features such as cushion tyres and compact chassis reduce the space needed for a gas powered truck, compared with larger diameter tyres and increased clearance space needed around the wheel arches of diesel forklifts.
Gas powered trucks are quieter while in use, which means lower noise levels affecting the ears of the drivers, which can be important if the forklift is to be in near-constant use. They also produce less stifling exhaust fumes than diesel powered forklift trucks, which makes them ideal for use indoors or in enclosed spaces. This is partly because catalytic converters on exhausts work better with gas-powered spark ignition engines than with diesel compression ignition engines. LPG is a cleaner fuel compared with diesel, producing much lower emissions than diesel variants.
With a cheaper price tag, gas powered trucks demand the lowest initial investment. However, maintenance costs can be higher than for diesel and electric versions, along with higher fuel costs. Like diesel trucks, they also might require an annual winter service with antifreeze.
There is also the propensity for gas powered trucks to run out of fuel without warning, as they lack a gauge to inform the user that the truck is almost out of gas. This can mean a long walk to wherever the replacement gas bottle is stored.
If there is a gauge, it’s most often visible on the gas bottle itself, rather than on an instrument display, which requires the driver to check the tanks before beginning a task. Pressure switches may only give 5 to 20 seconds warning that the bottle is almost empty.
Due to the possibility of fuel leaks, gas powered trucks are not suitable for some working environments e.g. food production and the pharmaceutical industry.
The pros and cons of diesel powered forklifts
Diesel fuelled trucks are most suitable for outdoor use where the fumes they produce can easily escape without concentrating in an enclosed space and causing environmental or safety issues. Furthermore, with the right catalyst converter or purifier on the exhaust, emissions can be reduced to the point where occasional or short bursts of indoor use may be acceptable.
Diesel forklifts have a higher torque compared with a gas powered trucks, which improves their performance on gradients and increases the power available for towing or scooping aggregates. The Doosan range of forklifts can accommodate even the heaviest workloads, with configurations that vary from 1 to up to 25 tonnes.
Furthermore, with diesel engines there is no danger of suddenly losing power, as there can be with gas or electric powered engines, which is especially important when hydraulic attachments are in use, including rotating clamps, forward tipplers and fork spreaders.
Diesel powered forklifts are often made to be more robust than other types of forklift, and this can lower the cost of maintaining and servicing these trucks.
Unlike electric models which require overnight charging, diesel forklifts can be used at any time without a break. With a gauge indicating when the fuel tank is nearly empty, there are no sudden stoppages that can occur with gas powered forklifts, and refilling rakes just a few minutes.
Diesel powered forklifts are not usually suitable for indoor use. In fact, it has been illegal for companies to use diesel forklift trucks weighing up to four tonnes in an enclosed space since 2003.
These kinds of forklifts are much noisier than electric and gas forklifts, and produce exhaust fumes which are undesirable in the workplace and could set off smoke alarms if operated in an enclosed space.
For some companies, diesel forklifts may be inconvenient as they are usually bigger and require more space for both movement and storage.
Diesel forklifts are usually cheaper than electric but more expensive than gas powered ones. They also cost more to maintain than electric forklifts, but are generally less costly than gas powered trucks.
The pros and cons of electric powered forklifts
Electric trucks are the most environmentally friendly of the different types of forklifts, giving off no fumes or harmful emissions while in operation, as well as being much quieter and therefore more comfortable for drivers when used in confined spaces. Some ranges, including the Doosan 7 series electric powered models, have been specially designed to be ecologically sound, with Doosan’s premium range producing some of the lowest levels of harmful emissions among forklifts currently on the market.
As they are lighter and more compact than diesel forklifts, they are usually more nimble in movement. They are also easier to drive than a diesel due to the lack of clutch or inching pedal, and there’s no need to rev the engine for faster acceleration or to manage inclines. Electric forklifts are also built to have fewer moving parts, which lowers the cost of maintenance and servicing.
In terms of fuelling these forklifts, the cost of recharging the battery overnight is much lower than filling a diesel tank or replacing gas bottles. Doosan electric forklifts use AC (alternate current) motor technology, which extends the time between charges, and with AC motors being completely enclosed, this reduces the exposure to dust and reduces sparking, lowering maintenance costs.
The initial outlay required to purchase an electric powered forklift is often higher than with other types of truck, due to the added overhead costs of buying the battery and installing a charger.
These electric forklifts cannot be used for multiple shifts, as they must also be left overnight to charge, which can be inconvenient and slow production. One solution to combat this is to purchase extra batteries to enable round the clock working, which brings extra expense. A battery charging station must also be installed in a convenient space close to the working environment. Power cuts from the national grid can prevent recharging, which can be a risk, particularly during winter months.
The higher point loadings on the wheels and axles of electric powered forklifts mean these forklifts require a smoother floor surface to function than diesel or gas trucks, or they risk sinking, for example on shale. Using these electric forklifts on slopes can cause the battery to empty quicker, so for some workplaces a heavy duty version may be required. The Doosan 7 Series offers a range of electric forklifts including those that can handle a heavier load and work comfortably on slopes.
Due to large amounts of wiring and electrical components, these forklifts are not ideal for prolonged outdoor use in wet or damp weather.