There’s no “one-size-fits-all” option when it comes to powering forklift fleets — different sizes of operations, even within the same industry or environment, often require different energy solutions.
In fact, fleet size can be one of the most important factors when deciding which energy source is best. This is because the size of your fleet reveals a great deal about your operation’s needs in terms of cost, speed of fueling transition, and storage.
This guide may help guide your search for the best forklift energy option by helping you consider your fleet size as one of the determining factors in your decision. We explore internal combustion, electric, and lithium options.
Operations with 1-2 forklifts have to weigh the higher, overall, comparative initial cost of electric against savings in lifetime fuel efficiency. It can be cheaper to run a lead-acid battery-powered forklift than an internal combustion counterpart over their respective lifetimes.
Operations with many forklifts have to consider whether the cost savings associated with electric remain high when faced with the need to buy additional lead acid batteries. That need can lead to increased battery investment, storage space requirements, and maintenance time for watering and swapping. In the long run, these costs can eat into overall efficiency savings, and internal combustion — or a transition to lithium-ion — might be better options.
Lithium-ion batteries don’t require traditional maintenance (e.g. watering), meaning your downtime and labor costs are reduced significantly when compared to lead-acid batteries. But, they are also more expensive than lead-acid batteries, meaning they’ll alter the outcome of your ROI analysis.
A more detailed analysis, ideally with the help of Southwest ToyotaLift, is needed to say definitively whether lithium-ion batteries would be the right solution for your fleet size. But in general, smaller fleets may find that the high initial costs of lithium-ion batteries are more than the efficiency returns can overcome.