Electric vs. Internal Combustion Forklifts

Are you thinking about adding a forklift to your operations? You probably know that you need equipment to accomplish various lifting tasks, but are now faced with the decision: electric or internal combustion?

These forklifts vary in many ways, but the most obvious being IC Forklifts require fuel to run, while electric run on a battery that needs to be periodically recharged.

Some other factors to consider when deciding between these two types of lifts:


Electric: These forklifts have zero emissions, which eliminate employees’ exposure to contaminated air. This means your warehouse would require less ventilation. These forklifts also have no disposal waste and a high percentage of battery lead is recycled. However, these machines are at a disadvantage in outdoor applications, especially in wet environments.

IC: These forklifts are good in both indoor and outdoor applications. They operate well in rain and other inclement weather.


Electric: These lifts have less noise and vibration than their IC counterpart, which reduces operator fatigue.

IC: Internal Combustion forklifts have the added physical requirement of changing the propane tank and increased operator fatigue from added noise and vibration.


Electric: Not only will your operator need to recharge the forklift battery, but will also need to water and clean it too. Downtime can be experienced if the battery is not charged or equalized properly.

IC: IC forklifts that run out of fuel do not require lengthy charging periods. In five minutes, an operator can easily replace the propane tank and continue operation, which is especially helpful in multi-shift production.


Electric: Electric forklifts have less moving parts to maintain and repair. AC motor technology results in no spark hazard and better speed control.

IC: With so many moving parts, it is very important to not only get your equipment repaired, but also to get preventative maintenance done.


Electric: Electric forklifts have lower long-term fuel costs since the batteries in these lifts can be recharged, but face higher initial costs. In addition to the cost of the battery, you will also need to provide an area for charging, watering, and cleaning. Though electric forklifts mean fuel savings, this can quickly be negated when multiple batteries are required to keep an operation running.

IC: These forklifts face a lower initial cost since you only need the investment of propane tanks and their storage area to operate the forklift. IC forklifts, however, also face higher lifetime costs in maintenance, repairs, and fuel costs.

When making a decision between electric and internal combustion forklifts, it is very important to weigh the pros and cons. Think carefully about the application you will be using your equipment in.

If you are looking for an indoor solution with zero emissions and are willing to spend more upfront in order to save on fuel costs, then an electric forklift might be for you. Though, if you are looking for a forklift for a multi-shift, outdoor application, then an internal combustion forklift may be for you.

Still not sure which equipment to choose? Try Toyota’s compare tool for side-by-side analysis. Once you’ve decided, contact our sales team to schedule your demo.