Should I Buy a Diesel or an Electric Forklift?

Diesel or Electric ForkliftsWhile hoisting and transporting various heavy objects and materials at the workplace is accomplished more safely, quickly, and easily with the use of a forklift, the specific way a forklift truck is powered not only makes a difference in its overall performance and ease of use, but also in its cost, maintenance, and environmental friendliness. Electric-generated and diesel-generated forklifts are commonplace in many warehouses and manufacturing plants, but they differ in several notable facets.

Electric-Powered Forklift Advantages

More environmentally friendly than a diesel-powered forklift, an electric-powered lift truck is not only quieter than its alternative, it doesn’t generate or release any harmful emissions into the air. These are particularly important aspects to consider if the lift truck is going to be primarily used indoors where workers would be directly and regularly exposed to the loud noise and fumes of a diesel-powered forklift. In addition, electric forklifts are more compact, easier to maneuver around small, tight spaces, and don’t require their drivers to use a clutch. Further, an electric-powered forklift is less expensive to maintain than a diesel-powered forklift since it has less moving parts and a rechargeable battery (vs. regularly refilling a tank).

Electric-Powered Forklift Disadvantages

With these impressive advantages, it’s hard to imagine that there are any weaknesses regarding the electric-powered forklift, but there are a few and they are all related to the battery.  Due to the need for a battery and charger (vs. diesel fuel), the initial investment is higher; and, unless the warehouse or plant has a fleet of forklifts to access when needed, the operator must wait until the battery is fully recharged before using it.  Further, this type of forklift is not the best choice for outdoor use since the battery, electrical components, and circuitry should not be exposed to the elements for prolonged periods of time.

Diesel-Powered Forklift Advantages

Ideal for outside applications and able to function at full capacity in wet or damp weather, the diesel-powered forklift is traditionally less expensive than the electric-powered forklift.  Easily accessible 24 hours a day, there’s no downtime with this option since the user simply needs to refill the tank with diesel fuel when it gets low (vs. having to wait to recharge its battery). No extra space must be reserved for a special battery charging station for a diesel forklift; it can be parked wherever it is convenient. The overall performance of a diesel-powered forklift – including its acceleration capabilities and lift speeds – is superior to its counterpart. Further, the capacity of this forklift’s battery can easily handle the addition and use of any necessary hydraulic attachments; conversely, the more components that access power from the electric forklift’s battery, the quicker that battery and the overall power of the electric forklift is drained.

Diesel-Powered Forklift Disadvantages

If the forklift is going to be used outside but still in close proximity to workers, the noise and fumes emitting from the diesel fuel can be still intolerable for some workers. The diesel forklift is bigger and bulkier than the compact-sized electric-powered lift, and thus requires more room for overall storage inside a warehouse or plant.

Whether it’s an electric-powered forklift or one using diesel, both move, retrieve, and store large and heavy materials in a timely and safe fashion. Perhaps the best question to consider when deciding between the two is, will the forklift be used primarily indoors or outdoors?

About Tom Reddon

Tom has been involved in the forklift industry since 1986. He loves doing research, blogging, and speaking about forklifts. You can contact Tom on his Twitter or Google+ profiles.

Inventory Feed

Get weekly inventory in your email.
Don't worry we hate spam too!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Need a Lift?

Didn't find the forklift you were looking for?
Let us find it for you.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.