Internal Combustion Forklift vs. Electric Forklift

Category: Equipment and Solutions

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Choosing the right forklift for your business is a crucial decision, and there are many factors to consider. One important component is the engine type: internal combustion (IC) or electric.

The best engine choice for your needs depends on your application and work environment. Will the forklift be primarily used outdoors? Does it need to perform heavy-duty lifting? Is noise level a concern? Considering how and where your forklift will be used is crucial in your decision-making process.

Once you answer these questions, you’ll want to understand how the different types of forklift engines work and what their advantages and disadvantages are to determine which type of forklift is right for your application.

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How Do Internal Combustion Forklifts Work?

An internal combustion engine forklift is similar to a car or truck engine. They operate by igniting fuel to create a series of controlled explosions that turn the motor and move the forklift. IC engines can be fueled by gasoline, liquified petroleum gas, compressed natural gas or diesel fuel. These fuels result in the release of emissions, which can affect where you’re able to use the machine.

The combustion process also generates a tremendous amount of power, which makes IC forklifts ideal for applications that require heavy lifting and load capacities.

Advantages of an Internal Combustion Forklift

There are many advantages to choosing an internal combustion forklift, including:

  • Lower cost: Compared to an electric forklift, the cost of an IC forklift is less expensive by up to 20%. If you’re working with a tighter budget, an IC forklift is a good option.
  • Versatility: With a higher load capacity and greater power, IC forklifts can be used in a wide variety of applications and environments without compromising the safety of their operation. They are also better for handling high speeds, ramps and longer runs.
  • Easy to refuel: IC engines are quick and easy to refuel, and the process takes only a few minutes. This efficient process allows for more continuous operation, which is ideal for multi-shift operations and increased productivity.

Disadvantages of an Internal Combustion Forklift

There are a few disadvantages to take into account when considering an internal combustion engine forklift:

  • More maintenance: With a larger number of moving parts, IC engines usually require frequent maintenance and repairs, which can lead to increased expenses.
  • Emissions: IC engines release carbon monoxide, which is an environmental hazard. If you need to use the machine indoors, you will need to make sure the area is sufficiently ventilated.
  • Higher fuel costs: Although the fueling process is quick for IC engines, the long-term fuel costs are higher than recharging an electric engine.
  • Noise: Internal combustion engine forklifts can be noisy, which means they are not the best choice for noise-sensitive work sites.

How Do Electric Forklifts Work?

Electric forklifts have a rechargeable electric battery that powers the engine. This electric power results in clean and quiet operation, which makes it a popular choice for indoor use. One battery charge can last 3-12 hours, depending on your application, so it’s essential to consider what average run length you need.

Advantages of an Electric Forklift

Electric forklifts offer many advantages, including:

  • Environmentally friendly: Electric forklifts use less energy and create less emissions than IC forklifts, which makes them a green equipment option. Fewer emissions also mean clean air, so they can be used indoors safely.
  • Reduced longterm costs: While they may have a higher purchase price compared to internal combustion engine forklifts, electric forklifts will save you money on maintenance and fuel over the long term. With battery-powered operation, these forklifts offer significant fuel savings. Plus, with less moving parts, you will save time and money on maintenance and repairs.
  • Decreased noise levels: The quiet battery operation means lower noise levels compared to an IC forklift. If you work in an environment where noise is a concern, an electric forklift is a good option.
  • Enhanced maneuverability: Electric forklifts have a more compact design, which allows for a tighter turning radius and greater maneuverability, which makes them ideal for narrow aisle applications.

Disadvantages of an Electric Forklift

Electric forklifts have several disadvantages when compared to IC forklifts, including:

  • Recharge time: It usually takes about 8 hours for the battery to recharge, then an additional 8 hours for the battery to cool down before it can be used. One charge will typically last 3-12 hours depending on the conditions and the demands of the application. If you’re running a multi-shift project, you may need to invest in multiple batteries.
  • Less load capacity: Electric forklifts have about half the load capacity of an internal combustion forklift, so they are not ideal for applications that require very heavy lifting.
  • Battery maintenance: Batteries need periodic cleaning and maintenance for optimal functioning, which requires additional employee training and can take time away from operations. A battery charging station is also a necessity, and the station must be dry, temperature-controlled and properly ventilated.

Choose RAKA for Your Forklift Needs

Whether an internal combustion forklift or an electric forklift is best for your business, RAKA has the equipment selection you need. We have new, used and rental options to meet a variety of project specifications and budget requirements. Our expert sales team will help you find the equipment solution to best serve your business. With nearly 50 years of experience working with companies in the upper Midwest, you can trust us to have high-quality forklifts that will increase your productivity and minimize costs.

Our highly trained service team is available to provide whatever maintenance services your machine may need, from battery maintenance to fluid analysis to a general tune-up. We can service your forklift in our shop, which features all the latest technology and tools, or we can come to you and perform work on the forklift at your job site. For more information about our products and services, contact us today.

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