Electric or internal combustion (IC)? It is a question at the forefront of many forklift fleet managers’ minds. Where environmental concerns carry more weight, emissions-free e-forklifts are the preferred choice. But when it comes to efficiency and performance, the combustion engine takes the lead. Or does it?
Ergonomic, precise, agile and powerful: particularly the last trait comes to mind when people think of gas- and diesel-powered forklifts. But many electric trucks have now caught up. In addition to their more familiar attributes – i.e. emissions-free and low-noise – these vehicles’ plus points include low operating costs, ease of use and, above all, outstanding performance. And this makes them serious competition to conventional combustion.
A case in point is manufacturer STILL’s electric-powered RX 60 range, the 2020 winner of the IFOY Award (International Intralogistics and Forklift Truck of the Year) in the category counterbalanced trucks up to 3.5 t. As highlighted by the IFOY international panel of judges: “With the high-performance version of the RX 60-25, STILL sets the benchmark for electric trucks in this segment. Never before has an electric forklift truck been so productive.”
The panel is picking up on a clear trend: when it comes to acceleration, driving and lifting, today’s electric forklifts are setting entirely new standards. They have the speed to keep pace with gas and diesel, and have the power to move heavy loads in comparable time.
Moreover, the latest electric forklifts are not limited to loads under five tons. In addition to STILL, manufacturer Linde Material Handling has developed counterbalanced electric forklifts capable of lifting up to eight tons. That said, the deployment of these forklifts for such high tonnages is not yet standard practice, acknowledges Björn Walter, Product Manager, Counterbalanced Trucks, at Linde Material Handling:
“However, demand continues to grow, as the differences between IC and e-forklifts in terms of performance are increasingly blurred.”
What about limits on how long electric forklifts can operate?
Heavy-duty tasks mean quickly depleted batteries? Think again. “Our RX 60 with a lithium-ion battery can be deployed for up to two shifts without recharging – a very practical amount of time. It has the greatest range per battery charge in its class,” explains Jürgen Wrusch, Product Manager, Electric Forklifts, at STILL. In addition, using short breaks for top-up charging is enough to enable around-the-clock availability. “The battery does not have to be replaced, nor does there have to be centralized charging infrastructure. Instead, forklifts can be conveniently charged decentrally at points across a warehouse, and can, if desired, be supplied with an integrated onboard charger.”
From now on, combustion-powered trucks will be sharing the podium for the most powerful forklifts with their electric rivals. For performance and more, models such as STILL’s RX 60 are showing that e-vehicles can hold their own.
The IFOY Award (International Intralogistics and Forklift Truck of the Year) annually recognizes the best intralogistics products and solutions. An international panel of judges makes their choices based on criteria including safety, technology, sustainability, cost-efficiency, design and ergonomics.