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Power options summarised

13 April 2021

There is more choice than ever when it comes to selecting the right forklift power source. Ivor Wilkinson explains why finding a match is important, and how different power options could help businesses to thrive.

POWER IS at the heart of every materials handling fleet, and it’s an area where technologies are advancing fast. But there isn’t a single ‘right answer’ when it comes to power. Some solutions are better matched to certain industries and applications.

Many operations have been using diesel trucks for some years, finding them affordable solutions that get the job done. They are popular in outdoor applications that depend on good uptime and a low cost of operation with easily available, low-cost fuel.

However, diesel engine emissions regulations continue to progress – the latest being Stage V. This means that the current range of Hyster diesel lift trucks is the cleanest ever and still remain the ideal choice for many applications. However, there are good reasons why some users may consider different fuel sources. 

Is LPG cleaner?

Switching to an LPG option might seem like an obvious step. LPG is a “cleaner fuel” with minimal soot or particulate matter. It’s suitable for indoor use (with the appropriate considerations for the operating environment) and can support multi-purpose operations with high availability. The energy density in each gas bottle is significant, with the power to keep operations running for extended periods, and when the bottle is empty, it is replaced easily and quickly. 

Forklift design is adapting to deliver lower emissions and greater fuel efficiencies. The Hyster Fortens series, for example, also offers a choice of operating modes, to help businesses balance fuel savings with productivity.

Going electric

In the past electric forklifts may have had a reputation for not being as durable as their IC counterparts. However, electric lift trucks with lead acid batteries are a good option, especially for indoor logistics and multishift operations. Many of which are working with battery powered warehouse equipment and are already sold on the benefits. 

However, a common objection to electric lift trucks is the run time. Batteries can only store so much energy, so operations need to factor in the time, and infrastructure, for re-charging. However, the capability for opportunity charging with a lithium-ion battery changes that.


Lithium-ion is becoming popular for a wider range of materials handling equipment.

For lift trucks, lithium-ion batteries are a ‘clean’ power source and require low maintenance, with no equalising, watering, or cleaning required. But the question we hear time and again: can you take a lithium-ion forklift and drive it like a diesel? 

In 2020, Hyster launched the J7.0-9.0XN(S)L series, with fully integrated lithium-ion batteries. These zero-emissions electric lift trucks with 7-9 tonnes of lift capacity offer comparable performance to an IC truck, alongside rapid opportunity charging, due to some key advances in technology and truck design. However, there are infrastructure considerations, such as wiring, charging locations, and draw on the electric supply.

Fuel cells

High-throughput, multi-shift operations may be attracted to hydrogen fuel cells, drawn by the benefits of electricity, with the convenience of fuel. Fuel cells are refilled in a matter of minutes, which can add up to significant productivity benefits. 

As demand for this power option grows, Hyster projects are under development which harness the power of hydrogen fuel cell technology to meet the need for zero-emissions container handling trucks for the port sector.

Ivor Wilkinson, solutions manager EMEA, Hyster

For more information, visit www.hyster.com