Advantages, Disadvantages of Propane Forklifts

(Courtesy: David Bruce Jr.)

(Courtesy: David Bruce Jr.)

In a previous blog I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of electric forklifts. In this blog I intend to do the same on propane forklifts.

The fact that a gas is involved with this variety of forklift may present a concern for safety for some. Still, propane is considered one of the cleanest gases around. Compared to gasoline, propane generates 87 percent less smog. Emissions are lower and less harmful than gasoline and it is supposed to increase engine life while requiring less maintenance.

The advantages of using this form of gas to power a forklift includes:

• Easy refueling. One need only replace the empty propane cylinder with a full one.
• Lower purchase price and capital costs. According to CleanFUEL USA of Georgetown, Texas, a gallon of propane is generally 40 percent less than a gallon of gasoline. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average monthly price of propane is $2.92 a gallon, while diesel is $3.06. Furthermore, propane offers a greater range of travel than other fuels.
• Better performance. Propane generates better horsepower and torque than electric forklifts.
• Acceptance for indoor applications. Although it is true that propane emission numbers can’t compare to the zero emission of electric, it is considered clean enough for indoor use and is safer to use than other gases.

There is an abundance of propane and there is a plethora of refueling stations across the country. Moreover, fleet operators can get refueling infrastructure on site. According to CleanFUEL USA, some propane fuel providers offer free on site infrastructure.

Disadvantages of propane forklifts when compared to diesel or electric models are numerous and include:

• Worse performance. Propane lifts are less effective than diesel models when it comes to torque and are more difficult to start and function reliably in frigid temperatures.
• Obstructed visibility for the operator. The propane tank is located behind the driver and obstructs his rear view.
• Liability issues. We are, after all, dealing with a liquid gas. So there could be fuel system leaks indoors. In addition, there are certain precautions involved in its use. The manager of the forklift fleet or individual operator must be trained on its proper use.
• Higher costs when compared with electric. Fuel cost for an electric forklift is zero while the average monthly cost of propane is $2.92 a gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
• An increase in injury claims. A forklift operator could get hurt lifting a heavy propane tank once every 6 or so hours unless there is bulk-filling infrastructure on site.
• Higher overall maintenance cost. Planned and repair maintenance costs are greater than diesel and electric forklifts.
• Future cost of propane. It is expected that the price of all fossil fuels will increase in the coming years.
• Availability. Although there are more than 2,600 propane refueling stations in the United States and availability may not be a problem in some regions, it is not readily available in some rural areas of the country.
(Next: Advantages, disadvantages of diesel forklifts)

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