Differences between an Internal Combustion Forklift and an Electric Fo — Liftow Toyota Forklift Dealer & Lift Truck Training Skip to content
Elevating everything since 1960.
Elevating everything since 1960.
Differences between an Internal Combustion Forklift and an Electric Forklift

Differences between an Internal Combustion Forklift and an Electric Forklift

There is a big distinction between electric and internal combustion forklifts.  In fact, understanding this distinction should be among your top concerns when choosing a new forklift. Consider the following differences between internal combustion and electric forklifts so you can make an informed decision on your next forklift purchase:

  • Internal Combustion Forklifts – Propane / Gasoline / Diesel 
    Internal combustion forklifts operate by igniting gasoline to create a controlled series of explosions that allow the motor to turn and the forklift to move. These types of forklifts are best suited for outdoors and harsh conditions.
    • Pros – Because the internal combustion engine is capable of producing immense amounts of power, these forklifts are capable of moving significant amounts of weight before being overloaded, making them perfect for particularly heavy loads. They are also much faster to refuel for more continuous operation and the initial cost of purchasing and internal combustion forklift is often less.
    • Cons – Much like a car, these types of forklifts require regular maintenance and produce emissions. Because of this, they aren’t particularly suited to smaller operations or use in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation. They also have higher fuel costs and are noisier than an electric forklift.
  • Electric Forklifts
    Whereas internal combustion forklifts are similar to automobiles, electric forklifts are more akin to an incredibly powerful golf cart. These types of forklifts are best suited for indoor use.
    • Pros – Powered by electricity, these forklifts are clean, quiet, and easy to maintain, making them perfect for smaller operations with smaller weight-moving demands. As well, there more compact design allows for a tighter turning radius and is ideal for narrow aisle applications.
    • Cons – Electric engines put out less torque than internal combustion engines, limiting their effectiveness at moving significant amounts of weight. This means they aren’t well suited to industrial environments with greater weight-moving demands. Further, you also must have a designated battery charging area that is dry, ventilated and temperature controlled. The initial costs in having to purchase a battery and charger are also higher.

As a warehouse manager or purchaser, it is important that you weigh other factors such as the type of application, operation conditions and work cycles when deciding between an electric and internal combustion forklift. Your weight-moving demands are suited to one or the other type of forklift and your local forklift specialist can assist you in the decision-making process.

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