LPG powered forklifts outsell diesel counterparts
The latest statistical evidence indicates a trend towards LP gas in overseas markets as a power source for forklift trucks.
In Ireland, while LPG has always been favoured by many end users because of its clean-burning properties, some areas of the country still experience supply problems with the fuel, especially outside the main centres.
According to a recent report issued by the British Industrial Truck Association, LPG forklift sales began to move ahead of their diesel counterparts half way through this year. Over 340 LPG forklifts were sold in the UK in June, compared to 282 diesel units, with the trend continuing during the following month. The actual figures show that LPG forklift truck sales accounted for just over 30% of all counterbalance trucks – Diesel, Electric and LPG – during the first seven months of 2010.
LPG suppliers claim a range of benefits for the end user. These include the ability to use the machines indoors as well as outside, being able to handle difficult terrain, working long hours without losing power, as well as quick refuelling times.
Depending on usage and applications, lifetime running costs for gas-powered forklift trucks can work out substantially lower than electric trucks, especially when the high costs associated with traction battery replacement are taken into account. And it’s also true that, unlike battery-powered trucks, LPG machines operate effectively 24/7 with no loss of power. From an environmental standpoint, while we know that there are zero emissions with electric forklifts, LPG trucks do have extremely low emissions when fitted with a 3-way catalyst.
The Irish Operator’s Experience
Although LPG power has always retained a high degree of popularity with Irish forklift operators, over the years diesel trucks have been more popular. This is because the diesel truck is perceived as being more robust (although it’s the same in every respect apart from the engine); is seen as being more convenient in terms of sourcing its fuel and is believed by many to give better power performance while requiring less maintenance.
However, over the past 10 years or so, automotive technology has improved the performance of engines set up to run on LP gas. As a result, the performance of these models now differ little from the equivalent diesel version – either in travel speed, gradient performance, lift and tilt speed, as well as the ability to operate hydraulic attachments.
In addition, LP gas power is clean. Not only do operators generally find it a cleaner energy source than diesel, with lower emissions, but it is also a cleaner fuel to handle when refuelling – as well as allowing trucks to run quieter and with more or less odour-free combustion. Fleet operators will also say that LP gas is less prone to on-site theft and spillages, while drivers will often cite advantages such as less vibration than diesel powered trucks.
For all these reasons we believe it is certainly worth considering the LPG option, provided of course that there is a ready supply of LP gas available in the operator’s area.