In Search Of The Perfect Energy Solution

Just in the last 10 years, forklifts have seen an explosion in the amount of energy sources used to power them. Perhaps the two new solutions are the Lithium-ion battery and fuel cells.

However, with the addition of these two energy sources to the reservoir of other sources including the lead acid battery, propane and natural gas, as well as diesel, warehouses are looking for the perfect alternative to power their fleets.

It is not a situation where one size fits all. No one can actually recommend one specific type of energy for industrial trucks. That’s because they all have their specific advantages and disadvantages. What decides which energy option is selected is up to operational conditions and the warehouse executives’ objectives.

As a result, a number of questions need to be answered before any selection process takes place. Some of these questions include:

• How is the forklift used
• What energy infrastructure already exists for the warehouse
• What other requirements should be considered.

The other requirements can include the sustainability of the energy chosen. In actuality, the decision is a difficult and all the facts available need to be weighed.

Types Of Energy Available

An advantage of industrial trucks with fuel cell hybrid drive is the short time needed for hydrogen refuelling.

Perhaps the most popular forklift in use is the internal combustion forklift. Diesel trucks are commonly used outdoors; LPG and natural gas vehicles are best suited for indoor applications. The best selling point for these types of forklifts is their power. Other selling points for IC forklifts are their ability to handle high and low temperatures and uneven surface conditions. In addition, refueling can be performed quickly.

Of course, electric-powered trucks have been entrenched in the operations of warehouses for several decades. And their popularity continues to grow. Reasons for this include the fact that they’re silent and are free of emissions, which make them ideal for indoor use. Either lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries are used to power these machines, but fuel cells or the reaction of hydrogen with oxygen are becoming standards. Electric trucks are sustainable, carbon monoxide free and design innovations have helped them achieve more power.

Fuel cell-powered trucks have a plethora of advantages. Yet, they have not made the breakthrough necessary to overcome battery-powered models. This is due to the current infrastructure that makes it difficult to sustain the use of hydrogen fuel cell trucks. Once the infrastructure issue is dealt with, hydrogen fuel cell lifts can be refueled in just a few minutes. In addition, the more they’re used the lower the price. They are already a clean and safe alternative to other energy sources. They also have the advantage of longer life than the alternatives and when finally placed, space-saving fuel dispensing. Unlike batteries, hydrogen fuel cells don’t cause a demand on the power grid, due to recharging requirements.

The popularity of the use of hydrogen-fuel cell trucks will spike once hydrogen is required in the operation process or is sourced from waste products at a warehouse’s production process, or if hydrogen filling stations are available in proximity to the warehouse.

The selection of which fuel to use should also be based on the size of the fleet, the shift model in place, break times, loading and usage of the truck, indoor use versus outdoor use, and sustainability. Consultation with a forklift truck manufacturer can also help in the process. A manufacturer can supply you with additional information needed to make the best decision. Many manufacturers can send out a representative to evaluate your site and many of them have software tools that can assist in gathering pertinent information. For example, the software tool can collect volumes of data and consider different scenarios of how the trucks are used. It also helps in determining energy savings and return on investment.

So take the time to analyze how you use your fleet, consult with manufacturers that offer the various energy type trucks and then come up with your decision.


About Robert J