A forklift is a type of powered industrial truck found in many manufacturing and industrial facilities. These devices feature a set of steel tines that can be used to lift materials onto shelves, or install them in place in a building or on a construction site. Different types of forklifts are distinguished by their operating system, which largely reflects the type of engine used in each unit. Buyers must choose forklift engines carefully, as this decision can have important implications for performance, safety, and durability. The size of a forklift engine must also be considered prior to purchase to ensure that the machine will be capable of lifting the loads typical to each facility.
The traditional forklift relied on an internal combustion engine, which is still widely used in modern applications. Like other internal combustion engines, these units burn fossil fuels for power. Depending on the type of forklift engine selected, companies may use gasoline, diesel fuel, or propane gas to power these forklifts.
Electric forklifts are a much more recent development in the field of forklift engine design. These machines rely on a motor or engine powered by electricity rather than fossil fuels. They include a large battery pack, which can be charged at a separate charging station. Electric forklifts often require overnight charging to ensure they have adequate power to meet the daily demands of a factory or warehouse.
Each of these two forklift engine technologies offers its own advantages and drawbacks. The internal combustion engine should be used with caution in indoor applications due to the pollutants these engines emit. Electric engines can be used both indoors and out, as they produce no emissions. Many government and safety organizations have strict laws in place regarding the use of internal combustion engines, including standards for air quality, exhaust and ventilation.
Electric forklift engines also run much more quietly than combustion units, and produce no soot that could reduce the cleanliness of a facility. They eliminate the need for fuel storage, which may reduce the risk of fire and explosions in some applications. On the other hand, electric forklift recharging stations pose safety hazards of their own. These battery charging stations pose significant fire and explosion risks, and must be carefully constructed and maintained to protect workers and property.
While an electric engine takes time to recharge, combustion-powered forklifts can be refueled instantly to avoid interruptions to production. Electric units also cost more on average, while combustion engines tend to be more affordable. Finally, the performance of a combustion engine often exceeds that of an electric unit, leaving these devices capable of lifting heavier and more frequent loads.