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Forklift operator sees sunshine revolution

24 August 2016

How one smart owner replaced his diesel forklifts with electric and now uses solar panels to power his trucks for free.

Imagine a future where your fleet of electric forklift trucks is charged for free using solar panels on your warehouse roof. For one Mitsubishi customer, that future is now.

The idea is the brainchild of Nick Pearson, director of Safepac Professional Movers, a specialist removals, haulage and storage company based in Suffolk.

Nick’s business performs house removals for the US military and the RAF, which means his forklift operation needs to run with military precision.

So when Nick approached Mitsubishi dealer Eastern Forklifts last year about upgrading his diesel fleet, he had no plans to switch from diesel trucks to electric, but after taking a Mitsubishi EDiA on a trial basis, everything changed.

Electric vs diesel

Paul Brierley from Eastern Forklifts explains: “Traditionally, truck users feel obliged to replace diesel with diesel because electric alternatives – though cheaper and cleaner to run – don’t tend to offer comparable performance. 

“But the new Mitsubishi EDiA range of electrics has changed the game entirely. It delivers higher performance – including acceleration, maximum travel and lift speeds – than most IC engine models,” said Paul.

One of the advanced new generation of electric counterbalance trucks from Mitsubishi, the EDiA has been developed to excel in typical IC engine applications… as well as outperform its electric counterparts.

Nick at Safepac continues: “We’re very heavy on our forklifts here, we work them very hard for long periods of time, so we’ve always opted for diesel trucks in the past. 

“Our work primarily involves moving large 8 x 8 x 4 foot wooden house removal crates that weigh anything from 1600-1800 kilos, and our day starts at 4am and ends at 8pm, so when it came to upgrading our fleet, high performance and long shift lengths were key.

“In the past we found that electric battery-powered forklifts didn’t have the longevity we needed, but now, with the EDiA and recent developments in battery technology over the last few years, we can go a whole shift before we need to charge the truck, and that’s with large loads and constant movement up and down and in and out for 16 hours.”

The ramp test

Nick had traditionally opted for diesel trucks to cope with transporting heavy loads up a 1 in 10 loading ramp leading to the warehouse.

“The ramp was the real test for us because you’re using much more torque and energy to get up,” said Nick. “We need strong, dependable performance so we wanted to double-check how many times the electric truck could do it.

“The EDiA went straight up all day long… no problem. It had pretty much the same performance as our current diesels, so that helped us make our decision.

“We deal with household possessions and clothes, so it’s also important for us to keep the warehouse environment clean and minimise the amount of carbon and dust flying around, so overall the electric Mitsubishi EDiA was a much better all-round solution for us.”

Free fuel

But it was the potential for slashing running costs that proved the ultimate decider.

“We looked at electric versus diesel progressively from a cost point of view,” said Nick. “We wanted to keep our operating costs to a minimum so we put solar panels on the roof of our warehouse to power the electric charger for the trucks.

“In summer when there’s more daylight we plug the truck in and get a free charge, so the run of the forklift is pretty much for free. We even sell some electricity back! 

“This covers our electricity bills and more. Environmentally it’s cleaner, and we get rebates from the solar panels, so we’re very happy.

“And our operators all love the EDiA. You can even plug a laptop in and set the mast speed and everything to suit the driver and the operation – which the dealer comes and does for us – so you can always find a happy medium that suits you perfectly.”