Electric VS Internal Combustion


Electric Versus Internal Combustion Forklifts

One of the most frequently asked material handling questions today is, "Should I use internal combustion (IC) or electric forklift trucks?" Choosing the right forklift truck can save your company money. Because individual applications may vary considerably, it is best to discuss any specific work conditions or plans with your local forklift dealer before making your final decision.


Electric forklift trucks are ideal for working indoors in many type of businesses. They can be operated outdoors, but only on dry, well paved surfaces. Internal Combustion (IC) forklift trucks are ideal for outdoor use, but if fueled by propane, they can be used indoors or outdoors.

General Maintenance

Recharging. The biggest consideration of an electric forklift is the recharging process. A typical battery takes 8 hours to recharge completely and then an additional 8 hours to cool down before it should be used. For example, a single charge could last from 3 to 12 hours depending on the application and other factors. If your operation has multiple shifts you may need to purchase additional batteries or, in certain instances, a fast charge system can be used. The fast charge system will reduce the need for additional batteries and potentially eliminate the need for a charging station. A battery-handling station occupies approximately 200 sq. feet or more depending on the number of units in your fleet and number of shifts in your operation.

Refueling. The main benefit of an IC forklift is the ability to refuel on the fly; simply load a new LP tank or refill gas or diesel at a refueling station and your forklift truck is ready to continue working. The downside is in some applications you may be required to refuel during a shift.




Advantages                                Disadvantages


  • Produce zero emissions
  • Reduced maintenance cost
  • Longer economic life
  • Lower noise levels
  • Lower fueling cost
  • Aisle width requirements are less than an IC forklift truck
  • Higher initial cost
  • Typically not suited for outdoor use
  • Less aggressive lift and ramp speeds
  • Limited product availability over 6,000 lbs
  • Downtime due to battery charging/changing
  • Need for battery changing station
  • Poor training or forklift negligence can ruin the battery

  • Lower initial cost
  • Better for long runs, high speed and ramps
  • Capacity capabilities of up to 15,500 lbs
  • Better suited for multi-shift operations
  • Easy to refuel
  • Indoor use requires good ventilation
  • Higher maintenance than electric forklift trucks
  • Higher fueling cost than electric forklift trucks