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Electric, Propane, or Diesel? It Depends on Your Needs

Forklifts come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. But the biggest difference is probably the type of fuel they use to operate.

While new fuel technologies for forklifts are still being developed, the three most common types of vehicles are electric, liquid propane, and diesel gas. Which type you choose depends primarily on how you plan to use your forklift.

Benefits of Batteries

Because they don't have any emissions, electric forklifts are primarily used for indoor work. They are quiet, cheap to run, and smaller than forklifts that use other types of fuel.

Electric forklifts typically offer an ideal solution for businesses that run a small- to medium-sized warehouse, dock, or distribution center. Because they tend to be compact, they can turn around better in tight spaces and are highly maneuverable.

They also generally have more basic controls, making them easier for new operators to learn on. Plus, they tend to have less maintenance since they don't have engine oil, coolants, or filters that need to be maintained.

On the downside, electric forklifts aren't usually as powerful as other types and their upfront purchase costs can be higher. There also is other equipment that must be purchased, such as battery chargers, charging bays, and hoists to lift and remove batteries for repair or maintenance.

The Power of Propane

Propane-powered forklifts are quick to refuel and emit few emissions, so they usually can be used both indoors and outdoors.

Their purchase costs are often lower than electric or diesel forklifts. In many cases, they also offer more power and greater torque than electric models and they tend to have a longer useful life than diesel forklifts.

Things to consider include the cost of propane. It rises and falls, making your future fuel costs less predictable. Plus, propane forklifts can have more moving parts than simpler electric forklifts, so they can require more maintenanc.e

Diesel Forklifts

Diesel-powered forklifts tend to be bigger and more powerful than other models. Because they emit potentially harmful emissions, they are usually for outdoor use.

Benefits of diesel forklifts include power, speed, and ruggedness. They can be built very large for the biggest jobs. Plus, their engines are simpler than propane or electric, making them easier to repair and maintain.

And when they are fitted with big tires and better suspensions, they can work on practically any terrain.

Downsides include noise and exhaust. And bigger machines aren't always as maneuverable as more compact vehicles.

Which type of forklift is right for you? It depends on how you plan to use it.