Electric Forklifts vs. IC Forklifts

Are there any advantages?

The great debate – electric forklifts versus internal combustion (IC) forklifts. This decision is not only for new companies. Established companies may also weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each fuel, especially if there is a shift of priorities to “go green.”


The forklift industry has experienced a shift in sales, with electric forklifts now leading the market’s purchases.

Better for the environment

Less noise and vibration are generated by the electric forklift, reducing operator fatigue.

Operator ergonomics

For certain industries, specialized training or experience is necessary to be capable in providing maintenance and recommendations as needed. An in-house forklift service technician will be trained to provide service on all variety of machines that exist within your company.

Decreased repair costs

Electric forklifts have fewer moving parts to maintain and repair. AC motor technology further eliminates brushes to create no spark hazard and better speed control.

Lower fuel costs

Batteries for the electric forklift can be recharged.

With these advantages come other factors to consider. Although electric forklifts have lower lifetime fuel costs, the initial cost is higher. In addition to the cost of the battery, an area for charging, watering and cleaning must be arranged. Electric forklifts are at a disadvantage when using the forklift in an outdoor application, especially if the environment is wet. Downtime can also be experienced if the battery is not charged or equalized properly.


The market is still strong for IC forklifts. They account for about 40% of the market and are dominant in outdoor, around-the-clock or high throughput applications.

Flexible application

IC forklifts are good indoors and outdoors. They operate well in rain and other inclement weather.

Lower initial cost

Only the investment of propane tanks and their storage area is needed to operate the forklift.

Easy to refuel

IC forklifts running out of fuel do not require a lengthy charging period. An operator can easily replace the propane tank in 5 minutes and then continue production. This is especially important with a multi-shift operation.

Other Considerations

Other factors to consider when purchasing an IC forklift include providing ventilation in the warehouse due to emissions, operator fatigue due to noise and vibration and the physical requirements of changing propane tanks. Finally, if the operation does not require an IC forklift you should consider the lifetime costs of maintenance, repairs and fuel cost when compared to an electric forklift.

Want to compare electric forklifts to IC forklifts for your facility? Call Thompson & Johnson today to speak to an equipment specialist or fill out a Customer Request Email Form above! 

Got Questions?

If you have a question on this or any topic related to safety with your forklift, give our resident expert, Dave Bennet, a call or fill out the request form.