One could argue that material handling equipment is the backbone to any productive facility or busi- ness operation. By choosing the right forklift and
fuel, material handling professionals can ensure effcient,
When exploring their fuel options, many material handling
professionals are finding propane to be the most versatile,
cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly option. In fact,
90% of Class 4 and 5 forklifts run on propane, according
to data from the Propane Education & Research Council.
While propane is an established fuel in the material handling market, there are still some common misconceptions
regarding the fuel’s capabilities. Here are three ways this
forklift fuel may surprise some professionals
1. Propane forklifts work anywhere, anytime.
No matter the job or location, propane forklifts provide
powerful, reliable performance for a wide variety of material
handling operations. Electric forklifts can’t carry the weight
of large jobs and diesel isn’t fit for small tasks, but propane
forklifts are available in all weight classes to match the job
Plus, propane’s versatile, low-emission operation makes it
a great fit for indoor use. According to a survey conducted by
PERC, 68% of forklift fleets are required to work both indoors
and outdoors. Propane-powered forklifts enable operators to
safely work indoors and out, keeping them more productive
throughout the workday.
Further, propane provides 100% power throughout operation and one propane cylinder typically lasts an entire
eight-hour shift, so facilities and warehouses can enjoy uninterrupted operational capacity. Plus, employees won’t have
to worry about downtime for recharging. Electric forklifts,
on the other hand, require hours of recharging and strict
2. Propane can save more than other fuel options.
When you do the math on the long-term costs of forklift
fuel options, propane takes top billing in a lot of ways. Propane-powered forklifts consistently cost less than other fuels,
like electric and diesel, providing cost savings throughout
ownership to businesses operating on propane.
According to data from PERC, the capital costs of propane
forklifts are almost 30% lower than electric. Unlike their
propane counterparts, electric forklifts incur additional utility
costs to keep them charged. Electric forklifts’ battery life and
power output diminishes over time and can lead to future
costs, including additional expensive batteries. Charging
electric forklift batteries when the remaining charge is too
high or too low can significantly reduce the battery’s lifespan,
too. The life expectancy of a propane cylinder, in contrast,
is three times longer than an electric forklift battery and
oftentimes extends beyond the typical lifespan of a forklift.
Propane-powered forklifts can also be refilled at any time
without impacting the lifespan of the cylinder.
With propane, beyond the initial equipment purchase
and the cost of fuel, all that facility managers and business
owners are responsible for is maintenance and storing the
cylinders, which they can either purchase or lease from their
propane supplier. Business owners may also be able to lock
in a fuel price with their local propane supplier, providing more
financial peace of mind.
3. Propane is a better low-emissions forklift fuel
than its electric and diesel counterparts.
Propane is the best choice for businesses interested in
operating with fewer emissions. A comparative emissions
analysis of forklifts conducted by the Gas Technology Institute, in partnership with PERC, found that propane forklifts
produce significantly fewer emissions than other fuel sources.
For example, propane can reduce SOx emissions by
76% when compared with electric. While it’s true that
electric forklifts produce zero emissions during normal
operation, their site-to-source emissions profile isn’t as
sterling. Site-to-source emissions for electric forklifts
include the emissions caused by electric generation and
its transmission to the final point of use. Facilities also
need to consider the emissions produced during battery
production and their transportation.
The battery disposal process can be a dirty one, too.
Once an electric forklift battery goes dead, facility managers
can’t dispose of them without negatively impacting the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency considers
them to be a hazardous material, so they have specific
handling and disposal regulations attached. And in many
cases, proper disposal or reconditioning of the battery can
be a costly proposition. Plus, propane is much cleaner than
diesel, which produces toxic exhaust that makes it unsafe
to operate indoors.
Propane continues to be a popular fuel choice with material handling professionals. The fuel’s ability to work around
the clock and reduce emissions, all while keeping costs in
check, are a few reasons that more and more business
owners count on propane forklifts to get the job done.
Jeremy Wishart is director of off-road business development
for the Propane Education & Research Council. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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By Jeremy Wishart
How does propane stack up to other forklift fuels when it comes to versatility, cost, and emissions?
3 WAYS THIS FORKLIFT FUEL MAY SURPRISE YOU