Park Logisitics - Creating Supply Chain Solutions

Park Logistics - Creating supply Chain Solutions

Creating Supply Chain Solutions
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POWER SOURCES – The future seems electric ‘Green’ issues and technology will oust dirty fuels

For many years the split among forklift power choices has changed little but the next 15 years or so could see big shifts in choice as technology changes and environmental concerns set the agenda. But should forklift users today consider a change now as part of their image to be seen as a good, responsible corporate citizens?


Very few people today seem to have a kind word for diesel-powered forklifts and this is understandable. Even when equipped with catalytic converters and soot filters they still emit carcinogenic agents and potentially lethal particulates. Air pollution globally is a growing threat that kills many hundreds of thousands every year and leaves many others incapacitated by respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Diesel fuel emissions play a large role in that death toll. For this reason they would or should never be seen operating in food and drug sensitive areas and are probably best avoided entirely for internal work.

There is a problem here in that many operations use diesel forklifts outside for loading/unloading lorries and then deposit loads inside warehouses for other trucks to take over the task for narrow aisle or VNA storage. It is considered that warehouse trucks are not suitable for outdoor work but this is now nonsense. Firms like Jungheinrich and Toyota have developed reach trucks suitable for outdoor work and the articulated forklift producers, using either LPG or electric, have for 20 years banished to need for a two-truck type of operation.

So if environmental pressures make life too difficult for diesel truck operators will there be a significant shift to LPG? Compared with diesel LPG does not compromise on performance and is also much cleaner so a switch from diesel to LPG would improve a user’s carbon credentials. LPG, however, is by no means squeaky clean, even when fitted with catalytic converters and should not be considered for work in food and drug warehouses. Cost wise, LPG has advantages over electric trucks in initial cost and they have reduced maintenance costs compared with diesel.

At point of use electric trucks are by far the cleanest but big changes will come that will probably leave lead-acid batteries obsolete owing to environmental concerns. Lithium-ion is already being used for powered pallet trucks where no counterweight is necessary and although costly their prices will fall and truck design changes will enlarge the market for them. Over the next few years the performance and working efficiency of electric trucks will closely approach diesel models and there will undoubtedly be a move towards heavier loads, previously considered the preserve of diesel trucks. Already the Port of Hamburg is using all-electric container handlers for 65-tonne loads.

People are quick to explain that even electric trucks have a carbon footprint issue if using grid electricity but even that could change. At Honda’s Swindon car plant electricity will be generated from solar panels to power various industrial vehicles including forklifts, a source that comes no cleaner.

The auguries suggest that electric trucks will finally dominate the marketplace though not as we know them. Fuel cells will probably become a primary power but not necessarily hydrogen-powered. Ethanol and other liquid bio fuels could make big advances. The future is ‘green’ and the future is electric.

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