Difference Between Electric and IC fuels for forklifts - Mid-Ohio Material Handling Inc.

Difference Between Electric and IC fuels for forklifts

What’s the Difference Between Electric and IC fuels for forklifts?

Forklifts have a variety of features that can make it difficult to find the right forklift. We have experienced salesmen that can find the best forklift for your material handling needs. These articles are to help you get a better understanding of the different types of forklift features. The fuel is mostly determined by the manufacturer when they are designing the forklift. There are two groups of fuels for forklifts electric and Internal Combustion. Each fuel type offers different benefits.

Electric Forklifts

Electric forklifts use an industrial battery that is inside the forklift. Typically, a forklift battery can cover an 8-9-hour shift without having to be recharged or swapped out. If your warehouse is small to medium and is mostly indoors, with tight aisles then the electric forklift would most likely work best. Since its battery powered it doesn’t burn fossil fuels, and it’s cost effective to run them. The electric forklifts have various battery sizes that is dependent on the model of forklift.


  • Costs lower in the long run. Typically, electric forklifts are more expensive initially, but is a lower cost overall.
  • Improved operator comfort. Electric forklifts don’t have the additional vibration and loud noise, making for a more comfortable ride for the operator.
  • Minimal environmental impact. Electric forklifts don’t give off carbon monoxide, and emissions.
  • Great maneuverability. Electric forklifts are smaller and more compact making it easier to move around a narrow aisle warehouse.
  • Requires less maintenance and repair. Electric forklifts have fewer moving parts, so overall there will be fewer repairs and less maintenance.


  • Battery charging periods. Recommended 8 hours charge and 8 hours cool down for a battery.
  • Battery change time. It requires more work when changing out a battery as opposed to changing out a fuel tank or refueling.
  • Unsuitable for wet environments. Some of the internal components may not be water proof, which could cause issues if wet.
  • Unsuitable for rough terrain. Most Electric forklifts are made to be run indoors, so the tires are likely to be cushion. Cushion tires aren’t made for a rough terrain.
  • Requires additional space for chargers, extra batteries etc. Electric forklifts need charging stations and extra batteries, these additional items take up space. You should make sure your warehouse has enough space.

If you already have chargers make sure the battery can be charged with it before purchasing the used or new unit. When purchasing an electric forklift, you have to make sure the battery volts and the charger volts are the same. If you don’t you could overheat the battery or the battery will never fully charge, both causing damage to the battery and charger. The forklift won’t charge properly if it doesn’t have the correct charger.

Internal Combustion (IC)

IC forklifts are Internal combustion and have a tank on the forklift. The IC forklifts can be powered by gasoline, diesel, Liquid Petroleum, or compressed natural gas. These forklifts can be used indoors and outdoors. When using them indoors make sure the warehouse has a high-quality ventilation system to get rid of the truck fumes.


  • Lower upfront costs. The IC forklift is cheaper upfront, but factoring in maintenance, repair, and fuel it can become more expensive.
  • Faster and easier fueling process. Quicker refueling or changing the tank than changing or charging a battery.
  • Capacity wide range. The heavier the load the bigger the forklift, with the IC forklifts there is a wider range of capacities.
  • Suitable for outdoor and indoor use. The terrain can be inside or outside for the IC forklifts.
  • Multi-shift application. IC Forklifts can run through multiple shifts without needing refuel.


  • Significant fire hazard, if there is a fuel leak. There is a potential of fire or explosion if the fuel tank is leaking or damaged.
  • Maintenance is more demanding. The IC engines have a lot of moving parts, due to that, there is a higher chance of needing more frequent repairs and maintenance.
  • Creates emissions. Burning fuels creates emissions that are bad to breathe in, if working indoors great ventilation is a must.
  • Creates operator fatigue. The forklift vibrates, creating operator fatigue.
  • Long-term fuel costs are higher. Over time, the cost of refueling will be greater than recharging a battery for an electric forklift.

The IC forklifts are extremely flammable. Check for leaks or damage in around the fuel tanks, when refueling and at the start of each shift. Keep in mind if this happens, we do offer services to have one of our factory trained technicians to come out to investigate it.

You can find more information on IC forklifts and Electric forklifts on our website. Stay tuned for our next article next month. If you are interested in purchasing a forklift contact us. Do you have a topic for an article? Comment down below.

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