The Forklift Boss Blog

Blog posts from Marshall Cromer, "The Forklift Boss". Follow us for information on forklift safety, available parts, & upcoming technologies shaping the future of material handling!

Aug 7, 2014

Electric or LPG - Which Forklift Type is More Cost-Effective?

We’ve offered the Electric Lift Truck Cost Calculator on our site for a while now. Many of you have used it to determine if electric forklifts would be a better choice than LPG for your next purchase.

Today we’re going to share some numbers on electric vs. LPG. 3 real-world scenarios where we quoted customers on new forklift purchases. Twice the numbers recommended electric lift trucks due to better maintenance & fuel costs. The third time, however, LPG actually won out.

It turns out that, in some cases, buying an LPG forklift is more cost-effective over a 5-year period than electric.

What could such a circumstance involve? Let’s find out.

Electric Total Cost VS. LPG Total Cost: 3 Scenarios

These calculations consider the following characteristics over a 5-year period:

  • How many hours a forklift is used per day
  • How many days per week a forklift is used
  • Forklift capacity
  • Energy prices/fuel costs
  • Maintenance costs per operating hour (estimated)

All are factored into a total cost of ownership, with values compared between a diesel forklift, a propane forklift, and an electric forklift.

Scenario 1. Quote estimate for 3 forklifts at 5,000 pound capacity, 5 days a week (8 hours per day), with an average operating time of 2,080 hours per year. Diesel forklifts would run $80,654 total cost over 5 years. Propane trucks would cost $83,058. Electric forklifts would cost $61,292.
Most Cost-Effective – Electric. Savings of $21,766 over propane, $19,362 over diesel. Plus over 70,000 pounds of carbon dioxide and over 30,000 pounds of carbon monoxide saved!

Scenario 2. Quote estimate for Cemco. (Featured in the December 2013 issue of News from the Forklift Boss.)
8 forklifts at 6,000 pound capacity, 5 days a week (12 hours per day), with an average operating time of 3,120 hours per year. Diesel forklifts would run $130,741 total cost over 5 years. Propane trucks would cost $123,839. Electric forklifts would cost $70,715.
Most Cost-Effective – Electric. Savings of $53,124 over propane, $60,027 over diesel. Plus over 150,000 pounds of carbon dioxide and over 60,000 pounds of carbon monoxide saved!

Scenario 3. Quote estimate for 1 forklift. 5,000 pound capacity, 4 days a week (3 hours per day), with an average operating time of 576 hours per year. Diesel forklifts would run $44,465 total cost over 5 years. Propane trucks would cost $41,575. Electric forklifts would cost $41,844.
Most Cost-Effective – LPG (Propane). Savings of $269 over electric.

What happened here? LPG turns out to be the best choice for Scenario 3. It illustrates one key instance when LPG forklifts are more cost-effective than electric – when hours of usage shrink.

If you use a forklift for half of (or less than) a full workday, the support costs go down. So do the fuel costs. When balanced against the up-front cost of buying the forklift, these lower costs fail to overcome the purchase price. The fewer hours you use it, the more costly electrics can become over time.

I should note: Not many businesses have a situation like this! This is more of a one-truck company example. Something everyone should keep in mind, even if a 4-hour shift never shows up on your forklift usage register.

Most of us will use forklifts all day, every day. With 8-hour days, maintenance & fuel costs do overcome the purchase price, and it often becomes more cost-effective to buy electric.

Bonus: Cutting Out the Pollution

Another factor to consider is the amount of pollution forklifts generate over time. In Scenario 1 and 2, each electric forklift purchased eliminated up to 125,000 pounds of pollution over 5 years.

For those businesses who have to maintain CARB Compliance, this is a big deal. Cemco, when it bought those 8 new electric forklifts, brought both their Northern California AND Southern California locations into CARB compliance. They’ll stop over a million pounds of pollution from ever entering the atmosphere.

(September 2013 Newsletter - Reminder: Keep All Your Forklifts Up to CARB Code)

What’s the Most Cost-Effective Forklift for You?

If it’s approaching time to invest in some new forklifts, take this into consideration. Buying electric or LPG depends on hours of usage, total costs, and CARB compliance. Cromer Material Handling is always happy to help you weigh the factors & find the right forklift for your job.

See you next month!

-Marshall Cromer, The Forklift Boss
Cromer Material Handling


Cromer Deal of the Month

2007 JUNGHEINRICH 48-VOLT ELECTRIC - $15,0002993-13

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Does the EPRI Calculator say you'd save with an electric forklift? Call Cromer at 800-974-5438 to catch this one on sale today!