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Choosing The Correct Motive Power

It has to be said that sometimes this choice will be made for you. Should your application only require a small truck for light loads then you will end up with an electric powered forklift as internal combustion engines are not fitted to very small capacity forklifts. On the other hand should you require a very large capacity forklift truck you are unlikely to find it driven by an electric motor.

The advantages and disadvantages of each of the three types of motive power for forklift trucks are listed below.

ELECTRIC powered forklift trucks.
ELECTRIC powered forklift trucks.


  • Zero emissions
  • Lowest cost of operation
  • Quieter in operation
  • Long life with no reciprocating parts
  • Cleaner in operation


  • Cost a lot more than IC engine trucks
  • Batteries need many hours to re-charge
  • Second battery required for continuous use
  • Battery charging station required
  • Method of changing batteries required
  • Limited use in heavy rain
  • Generally more expensive than IC Engine trucks


DIESEL powered forklift trucks. DIESEL powered forklift trucks.


  • Larger capacity forklift trucks
  • Continuous use possible
  • Lower initial purchase cost
  • Towing power increase over electric
  • Better gradeability than electric


  • Higher running costs than electric
  • Refueling facilities required
  • Dangerous fumes if used indoors
  • Possible product contamination indoors


  • Similar advantages to diesel forklift



  • Need to change LPG bottles. (Manual Handling)
  • Storage facility for LP Gas cylinders required
  • Toxic fumes. Ventilation required

There seems to be an urban myth that states that LP Gas is safe to use inside. In fact, LP Gas gives off toxic fumes and that's with a correctly adjusted engine! It's true it won't contaminate product in the way diesel can but it must be emphasised that indoor use is only safe under well ventilated conditions.

Brief exposures to concentrations of propane up to 10,000 parts propane per million parts of air (ppm) do not cause any symptoms in humans. Exposures to very high concentrations of propane (100,000 ppm) can produce slight dizziness after a few minutes of exposure. At extremely high concentrations (several hundred thousand parts per million), propane acts as an asphyxiant by displacing oxygen. This means one could suffocate if exposed to high enough concentrations of propane because it dilutes the oxygen in the air.

Download HSE guide on bulk LP Gas storage. (Desktop site)

It's worth noting that other forms of propulsion are being investigated and Yale forklifts and one or two others already have a truck that runs on hydrogen!