People outside the warehouse and logistics industry probably don’t give it a moment’s thought – and why should they? – but the choice of motive power sources currently available for forklift trucks has never been more exciting.

The big UK supermarkets, their distribution centres, the leading3PLs and the other large warehouse operators around the UK are all big users of energy for motive power for their forklift fleets, but are getting smarter in how they do it.

Thanks to a combination of demand for ‘greener’ energy solutions from these major fleet operators, and innovation by the battery and charger manufacturers, LNG suppliers and truck manufacturers, here and in Europe the market for power sources for industrial trucks has been going through a revolution almost unnoticed. And the same choices are increasingly also available to forklift users with just one or two trucks.

Do you prefer batteries or bottled gas? You pay your money, and you take your choice. Both technologies are advancing rapidly in terms of powering forklifts to work more efficiently for longer.

Pressure to achieve cleaner working in modern, high-level warehouses has driven manufacturers to build gas-powered IC trucks with clean-burn engines that produce virtually no emissions. These are trucks that can run in a clean environment: you can hold a handkerchief over the exhaust and it won’t dirty it. You can’t do that with old school IC forklifts. At the same time the major oil and gas companies are increasingly realising the potential rewards of offering customers with large truck fleets the option of tailored LNG and LPG solutions, supported by on-site refuelling stations.

On the battery side, the growing use of renewable energy and migration to emission-free drives has increased the importance of rechargeable energy sources. Battery manufacturers are responding to pressure from end users to come up with ‘greener’ solutions and do more to develop batteries that recharge more quickly, using less energy and producing cleaner by products in the process.

Battery-powered cars and lorries capable of going for long distances at the kinds of speeds we’re used to from oil-fuelled vehicles, and do so at affordable prices, are coming closer to reality. Over the next few years these same advances in battery technology will transfer to industrial truck batteries and transform the way fork lift trucks work.

We’ve become used to big fork truck fleets supported by big on-site battery charging and changing set-ups, but these could see a revolution. Throw in the option for companies to generate the electricity to drive their trucks from solar panels or wind power turbines on site, and the prospects become even more exciting.

Warehouse & Logistics News

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