Stories & Features

Raise your game with an electric forklift

Image of an electric forklift in a warehouse
Upgrading to an electric forklift can have many benefits, including energy savings.

The surprising benefits of upgrading to an electric forklift

Forklifts are an essential tool in any warehouse or storage facility – but it's all too easy to take them for granted. However, with CleanBC's goal to make B.C. industries the cleanest in the world, along with rapidly advancing battery technology, if you're still running gas-powered forklifts, isn't it time to review your fleet and start considering electric?

While electric forklifts have been around for a long time, the huge improvements that electric cars have seen over the last 10 years are being mirrored in the latest electric forklifts. Lithium-ion battery-powered models are becoming more and more affordable and offer around 30% increased efficiency over their lead-acid battery-powered counterparts.

Why switch to electric forklifts?

Of the 260,000 forklifts sold in 2018 across North America, roughly 64% were electric, according to the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) [PDF]. So if you're still on the fence about going electric, let's take a look at why you should make the switch – particularly to the latest lithium-ion battery-powered models.

Firstly, there are the energy efficiency benefits, but the latest electric forklifts can offer all kinds of other efficiency benefits to your business as well:

  • Reduced charging time: Lithium-ion batteries can charge up to 8 times faster than older lead-acid batteries.
  • No swapping out: Lithium-ion batteries don't need to be swapped out and can even be topped up during coffee breaks.
  • Lower maintenance bills: Electric forklifts have low maintenance motors, not engines, so there are far fewer moving parts. This dramatically reduces servicing costs – so you never need to worry about things like oil changes or new spark plugs. Regenerative braking means your brakes will last longer, and lithium-ion batteries don't need watering like older lead-acid batteries.
  • No hazardous fumes or leaks: There are no CO2 fumes from an electric forklift, and if you have a lithium-ion battery, no potential acid leaks.
  • Fewer battery replacements: All batteries have a lifecycle, but modern batteries last a lot longer that older lead acid batteries – which means you'll have to buy fewer replacement batteries – and dispose of fewer dead batteries.

"A modern electric forklift also has another really useful feature that you also see on electric cars," says Steve Cao, Senior Program Manager, Industrial Marketing at BC Hydro. "It'll tell you what the state of charge is and how much longer you have left based on current performance. So an operator has a lot more confidence in knowing how much they can do before the next charge."

As you might expect, an electric forklift is undoubtedly a more expensive upfront cost than a gas-powered equivalent, but when you take all of the benefits into account, you'll probably find that in the long term, going electric could actually reduce your overall forklift costs – and potentially increase productivity, too.

What kind of business are electric forklifts best suited to?

With so many benefits over a gas-powered forklift, electric forklifts also suit a wide range of business types. "Most often, electric forklifts are deployed in warehouses and distribution centres," says Steve. "It's mostly indoors. But what's interesting is electric forklifts are always more popular in situations where they have to operate in public areas as they're silent and emissions-free. Think about all the positive things that communicates to your customers."

Where can you get more information?

If you'd like to find out more about electric forklifts and see what they could do for your business, the best place to start is the ITA's Resources page or by talking to your BC Hydro Key Account Manager or Regional Energy Manager.