Pros and cons of an electric forklift truck

Electric forklift trucks make up for a large segment of the forklift market. The electrically powered forklift truck has a market share of no less than 65 – 70%. The use of electric propulsion has therefore become quite common. Electric forklift trucks are available with capacities from 1 to 10 tons. What makes the electric forklift truck excel these days? And in which areas can this powerhouse be improved. Time to explain the working method and to list the advantages and disadvantages of an electric forklift truck.

Propulsion with lead-sulfuric acid batteries

How does the drive of an electric forklift work? Lead-sulfuric acid batteries have been used for this since the middle of the last century. The chemical reaction of the acid that draws into the lead plates is a proven method of generating electricity. Since the introduction of this so-called wet battery, the capacity of the batteries has hardly increased. However materials have improved greatly and maintenance has become a lot easier.

Advantages of an electric forklift

The high market share of electric forklifts has got a reason. Compared to forklift trucks with an LPG or forklifts driven by a diesel engine, electric forklift trucks have a number of clear advantages. In addition to the longer lifespan and lower maintenance costs, an electric forklift truck has two other characteristic advantages. A battery-powered lift truck also has a lower noise level and the burden on the environment is lower. On the other hand, there is a higher investment. With an electric forklift you will earn back this investment in the foreseeable future.

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Pros and cons of an electric forklift truck

Disadvantages of an electric forklift

The operating costs of an electric forklift truck or a forklift truck with an internal combustion engine are fairly easy to compare. Several variables play a role in this comparison. For that reason, it is good to look at a specific usage situation. In general, the following drawbacks apply to a lead-sulfuric acid battery:

  • The limited lifespan
  • Weekly maintenance
  • The large size and weight of the battery
  • The limited range

Limited lifespan

With intensive use, the lifespan of an electric forklift truck is approximately 1500 charges or 6 years. With proper maintenance, the battery will only deliver 80% of its capacity after this period and will be worn out both technically and economically. With a lower deployment and with only a few charges per week, the life of the wet battery can be extended to 8 to 9 years.

Weekly maintenance

Maintenance is limited to checking the liquid level every week and topping up with demineralized water if necessary. Good automatic filling systems are available for this process. This means refilling takes little time and the battery is always filled to the correct level. In addition, keeping the battery clean is very important, because otherwise leakage currents arise that can shorten the deployment and the lifespan.

Measurements and weight

A battery is made up of cells and each cell transmits 2 volts. For example, connecting 24 cells in parallel creates a voltage of 48 volts. The active surface of the plates in the cell determines the capacity of each cell. Do you need a large capacity? In that case the surface area is increased with larger or more plates in a cell. Looking at the size of the truck, it is crucial to keep the size of the battery down. The lead and acid quickly make a battery a lot heavier. For lift trucks, this size is not such a problem, because a counterweight is needed. Forklift trucks with an LPG or diesel engine are therefore equipped with a separate counterweight.

Limited range

If a lead-sulfuric acid battery is empty, it takes at least 7 – 8 hours before it is refilled. Giving an intermediate charge is very bad and greatly reduces battery life. Does a battery have insufficient power to complete a day’s work? In that case it is advisable to work with replaceable batteries. This method requires an extra investment. Not only in the batteries themselves, but also in the necessary “exchange equipment”. Think of hoists, roller conveyors or electric pallet trucks.


A modern alternative to the wet battery is the so-called lithium-ion battery or accumulator. This battery has various advantages, such as a longer life, maintenance-free, smaller dimensions and weights and shorter charging times. There are also disadvantages to these lithium batteries, such as a high investment, high charging currents and a relatively low weight.

Unilift South Wales forklift solutions

At Unilift South Wales we provide excellent forklift solutions no matter what forklift your require. We have new forklifts for sale however for a smaller budget also have a look at our second hand forklift trucks for sale. Whatever forklift your business needs do not hesitate to contact us to provide you with a more than competitive quote.