The clock is ticking for companies across Britain, aiming to do their part to cut carbon emissions and meet stringent government targets. While just about every sector has a part to play in this, from the automotive industry to power generation, the task is all the harder for some industries who simply have a higher built-in carbon footprint than others.
Cutting emissions is an easier task for office-based companies, for example, or for industries with access to ready made green alternatives. Nowhere is this more of a problem than for businesses that rely on large fleets to do their work. Whether it’s fleets of vehicles or fleets of materials handlers like forklift trucks, or a combination of both, businesses have historically faced problems cutting their emissions when their base carbon footprint is so high. That is, until the electric revolution began.
The rise of the electric forklift
In common with many other types of electric vehicle, the electric forklift has come along way in the last 20 to 30 years. In the 1970s and 80s, as much as 70% of the forklift market was powered by internal combustion engines, and the electric variant was merely an option, often viewed as underpowered and expensive. Fast forward to today and the situation is completely reversed. Now, electric trucks make up as much as 64% of the US market alone, and even more in some European countries.
Part of this transformation can be put down to other practicalities. For example, the cost of electric forklifts has been coming precipitously down for decades in terms of cost per unit and the cost to run, both because of improved and cheaper technology and the falling cost of electricity. When compared with petrol, diesel and LPG variants which have stayed roughly the same price, while the cost of their fuel has gone up with the price of oil, there’s a clear cost incentive. Right now our figures show that a diesel forklift costs around $25 a day in fuel, whereas the charging costs for an electric forklift are around $5 per day.
Safety is a second factor at play, and increasingly stringent regulations on air quality and risk management have favoured electric vehicles over internal combustion models because of the risk of fire, explosion and CO2 poisoning, which can occur in confined spaces.
However, probably the biggest factor of them all is the environmental benefit that operating electric forklifts can bring to your business. This can result in gains in a number of areas, both reputational and compliance wise, but in your bottom line as well. Let’s take a look at how this can be.
Going green with electric forklifts
The single most obvious fact about electric forklifts is that they don’t produce any emissions when they’re being used. Of course building the truck and generating the energy it runs on still generate emissions, but over 10,000 hours of use the US Department of Energy calculates that an internal combustion powered truck will generate 54 tonnes more carbon than an electric one. The fuel questions is probably the biggest factor when it comes to choosing to go electric, but it’s not the only area in which electric forklifts are less wasteful. Oil derived fuels aren’t the only consumable that an internal combustion engine needs to keep running, and with considerably more moving parts than an electric engine there are also other things like oil filters, transmission fluid, engine oil and coolant that need to be regularly replaced and disposed of. In comparison, the electric variant has only the battery to replace, which today is nearly 98% recyclable.
Another big factor can be that businesses feel that they need the power of a diesel forklift to get the heavy lifting done. With the new EP EFL 302, this couldn’t be further from the truth. We’ve added a forklift to our li-ion battery range which gives you the full power of a traditional diesel forklift with all the benefits of li-ion for your business. Find out more about this new forklift here.
What are the benefits?
Transportation has an outsize impact on the UK’s carbon emissions, and it is by far the largest single polluter, contributing 33% of the UK’s entire carbon footprint. It is also the area that has stubbornly refused to shrink its emissions, even as emissions from buildings and power generation have fallen substantially. As a result, being able to boast compliance with any of the low carbon or emissions reduction schemes out there puts you head and shoulders above the competition if you run a fleet of any kind. And why is that important? For modern consumers, a more sustainable way of life is important. The Natural Marketing Institute calculates that customers are 58% more likely to buy from companies who actively try to reduce their environmental impact, and they also tend to spend up to 20% more with you when they do decide to purchase.
While you may not deal with consumers directly, your clients certainly do, and they will miss out on those sales if they choose a supplier that can’t demonstrate their climate commitments. As a result, your green credentials are likely to win you more jobs and higher value jobs if you can allow your clients to boast about how sustainable their supply chain is. Similarly, contracts with government departments, local government or large corporations signed up to climate agreements will open up if you can demonstrate that using your services will allow them to meet their obligations.
Electric forklifts go beyond fuel
So far we may have covered ground you already know. There’s been a lot of press regarding how electric vehicles can cut emissions, and the benefits of using less oil derived fuel are clear, but did you know there are sustainability benefits beyond just direct emissions?
For one thing electric motors have many fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines, which means there is less to go wrong, and allowing the electric forklifts to go for longer without scheduled maintenance. Diesel forklifts require more maintenance overall, whereas electric forklifts, specifically li-ion battery powered ones, require very little. Many of the parts for our li-ion forklifts can be simply replaced when needed, alongside our zero maintenance batteries.
A second unexpected benefit to doing away with internal combustion driven forklifts comes in the form of a range of smaller positives you might not even have thought of. It’s important to remember that sustainability and efficiency aren’t just boxes to be ticked or numbers to report, it’s about making your business more ethically sound and a better place to work and do business too. If you don’t need petrol or diesel to power your trucks, you don’t need to store it on-site in tanks. For one thing this means less large outlays to replace the fuel in your storage tanks all at once, but it also means saving carbon emissions on receiving regular fuel deliveries, without mentioning the environmental cost of producing the fuel in the first place. For your business this also means you can do away with the tanks altogether, freeing up valuable space on-site for more storage.
Your workers will also benefit from replacing your trucks with electric forklift trucks, both in terms of comfort and safety. Using electric trucks means you won’t have to worry about the CO2 emissions within your own buildings or warehouses, caused by running your truck’s engines. It also means you’ll stress your air conditioning less because electric trucks kick out much less heat, which is more comfortable for your staff, but also means you’ll spend less money cooling your buildings down as well as less power, which also means lower emissions. All in all, that means making your business more sustainable cost-wise, for your staff, and for the environment all in one go.
And the benefits to your drivers doesn’t end there. Electric forklifts now use cutting-edge technology and new features to make driving them even better. The EFL 302 has a large driver compartment, for additional space and comfort, so you can give your team a great driving experience as well as a forklift that will get the job done.
Electric forklift trucks for the future
Being an early adopter of new technology allows you to reap the benefits before everyone else, but going electric may end up being your only option in future. As climate restrictions become more stringent, alongside workplace air quality and noise regulations, operating internal combustion vehicles is slowly becoming less and less sustainable as time goes on. It’s a good idea to get ahead of the times and research the type of electric solution that could work for your business, so you’re not in a rush to find a solution later on. Choosing lithium ion battery technology ahead of the older lead acid battery allows you to reap the maximum benefits that electric technology offers, with fewer of the downsides, for example.
Choosing lithium ion is the higher efficiency option, with these batteries typically converting 95% of their energy into useful work, while lead acid batteries manage only about 70%, and internal combustion engines can boast even less. Further benefits are to be had in terms of up-time, because lithium ion batteries can be charged during breaks and on the fly, while lead acid batteries require a full hours-long charge cycle before they are ready to go again. They also last longer, typically around 3000 charge cycles compared with 1000 for a lead acid battery, meaning you’ll have to replace the battery less frequently.
Ultimately, whichever form of battery you choose, converting your truck fleet to electric power is the only truly sustainable solution for the environment and your business. There are a range of obvious environmental benefits to be had weaning your forklift truck fleet off internal combustion power, but there are also ancillary benefits that will boost sustainability within your finances and your workforce too. Environmental sustainability isn’t just a meaningless number that you can brag about on your website, it’s a whole new way of looking at how your business impacts the world around it. One that can bring you hard cost savings, as well as the reputational benefits that will drive more customers and clients through your doors. It will help you meet your environmental and sustainability targets, but it will also make your business a more pleasant and healthier place to work, a leaner operation with fewer overheads, and a business that’s in a good shape to handle whatever challenges the future throws at it.