Combustion vs. Electric Forklift — Material Handling Equipment Comparisons

by Dav Wayman

Material handling equipment are essential in any business that is related to large and bulky goods and merchandise. Gone are the days of manual labour when only sturdy hands did all of the lifting, which was very rampant until the mid-1900s; they have since been replaced by machines and equipment, such as forklifts.

Not only was the former lifting strategy labour-intensive, it was also quite inefficient because it relied on a worker’s power and endurance. Since the end of the Second World War, forklifts have been widely used for loading and unloading very large numbers of (and heavyweight) cargo.

There are basically two types to a forklift. Material handling equipment, in general, have different and varying characteristics, but are mainly categorised according to “fuel”: internal combustion and electric. Combustion forklifts are those that run on diesel, gasoline or liquefied petroleum (LPG), while electric forklifts are obviously operated by charged batteries. Each has its own benefits that can sway you to buy and eventually use it.

To help you decide on which one to choose, here is a compilation of pointers that you can study:

Price – Internal combustion forklifts definitely cost less than their electric counterparts. This can play a huge role in your purchase because of the savings you can have upfront. However, as in any business decision, it would be best to view things long-term.

Load capacity – Combustion forklifts have a high load capacity, often over 6 tons.
The electric ones, on the other hand, can carry up to 3.5 tons, depending on the voltage, which can effectively limit the performance of your forklift.

Emissions – The obvious answer here is that combustion types emit harmful gases, including carbon monoxide, into the atmosphere, while the electric has zero emissions. This can prove to be a huge factor for environment-conscious companies, willing to cut on their carbon footprint.

Usage Time – Electric forklifts can be cumbersome to use, because of the battery’s charging time. Since they have smaller load capacity, putting it to do more work would require charging often that can be a little hindrance in operations. Combustion types, however, are easy to refuel (can take only 3-5 minutes) even at higher loads.

Cost-efficiency – The battery-charged forklift definitely wins this category because it has very low hourly fuel expenses and only requires less frequent and cheaper maintenance. Combustion fuel-operated types, on the other hand, need more frequent scheduled check-ups at relatively higher costs. Therefore, although you spend a larger sum upfront for electric forklifts, you actually get better value long-term.

About the author: Dav Wayman is a car enthusiast. At a young age, he has already attended plenty of car shows. In order to further intensify his knowledge in cars, he actually took a short course in Automotive. Also, he visits sites like as well as reads books about the auto industry. He shares what he learned through writing.

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