With the rise of unique technologies in forklifts and lift trucks, a debate is going on all over the world about choosing among the two most exclusive and economic technologies for forklifts, Hybrid or Hydrogen fuel cells. Many people are now familiar with the new hybrid technology, which has been discussed here on my blog as well. However, hydrogen fuel cell is a unique name for some people and it’s not really common knowledge yet.
What is Hybrid Fueling?
Hybrid technology is one that uses two or more power sources to move the forklift. Hybrid forklifts combine internal combustion engines and one or more electric motors, which run this list truck. Currently Toyota Hybrid electric Forklifts are known as the most familiar hybrids.
Advantages of Hybrid Technology:
With the rise of hybrid technology, some of the greatest advantages were for drivers.
- These are called fuel economy vehicles. As they consume less fuel and runs far away. According to an estimate, 50% less amount of fuel is required to run them (Approx. 1 to 2kg Gas per hour operation). With this great feature, these can be the most popular forklift in future. As the world is facing shortage of fuels.
- With the benefit of low CO2 emissions, these kinds of lifting and handling machines are safer machines for the environment as compare to the petrol, propane or diesel forklifts.
- These trucks can prevent environmental pollution. Global warming is a great issue of this generation, which can be handled somehow by moving toward hybrid motors.
- Mileage of this forklift is much better.
- Forklift Tires that are used for Hybrid Forklifts are much harder and inflated.
- Driving is light and smooth.
- They operate with less noise.
Disadvantages of hybrids:
- While the above defines advantages, there are few disadvantages that these forklifts have.
- These are expensive ones. They can save fuel costs but these are pretty expensive to buy.
- Winter can influence the working functions of hybrid forklifts.
- Over weighting may reduce fuel efficiency.
- The maintenance of the hybrid system can cost much due the complexity of the system.
What is Fuel Cell?
Fuel cell forklifts can be found under large warehouse work environment. In these forklifts, more than one Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cell is used. As the power of one cell is not enough to drive a handling equipment.
Crown Forklift manufacturers are now manufacturing fuel cell forklifts in collaboration with Plug Power, Ballard, GrafTech and other fuel cell power pack providers. In 2013, there were 4,000 fuel cell forklifts in USA. Amazing but true, in 1960 first ever fuel cell forklift was made.
Advantages of Fuel Cell Forklift:
When we talk about the advantages that the fuel cell forklift can provide, we can see that the technology has similar advantages those which hybrid technology also has.
- The most highlighted advantages are less CO2 emission, less pollution and low fuel consumption.
- They emit water instead of harmful gasses.
- They can run longer.
- Refueling time is less. They can charge much quicker.
- With the reduced downtime, a forklift operator can earn more with fuel cell as compared to other fueling options.
- These trucks save the warehouse space. As the batteries are not required to store a large amount.
- Productivity is increased by using fuel cell.
- These are much efficient when compared to Gas or Oil.
- This kind of forklift produces less heat, which makes them more efficient for indoor use.
Disadvantages of Fuel Cell:
Whenever a technology gives you numerous benefits, some hidden disadvantages are always there.
- Limited fuel stations are available for this kind of material handling equipment. That is why these are not as popular as they likely could be. Refueling of these forklifts is also a major issue.
- These are more expensive than hybrids. Not everyone can afford them to buy. Only large and rich warehouses have begun to purchase and use them.
- These vehicles are generally bigger than other ordinary forklifts.
- These are not yet common and are limited. Only available in USA and certain parts of the world.
So what is the Future?
By reading all of the above advantages and disadvantages of both fuel cells and Hybrids, it is not so easy to decide what would be the possible future for the technology of forklifts. Hybrid forklifts are already available in market and are under use in various indoor-outdoor warehouse work environments. Fuel Cell Forklifts are not so common yet, as the fuel cell stations are limited in number.
Many manufacturers are just now debating this topic, deciding which technology is the future out of these two. However, according to me, Hybrid is at the top of all technologies to have yet appeared for forklifts.
Fuel cells can be popular due to their efficiency but may require too much time. As this is the most expensive kind of forklift, consumers are hoping that the rates may come down after few years. Hence, not everyone is be able to afford them. Same for the development of fuel stations which would require a large amount of money, as well as time. Only if the development of fuel stations is done quickly, within coming years, my conclusion may become wrong.
Hybrid motors are already popular and there is no requirement for separate fuel stations for them. Chances are also high that fuel cells could not take place of hybrids. As the hybrids may become more efficient from time to time with engineering evolutions, fuel cell technology still needs more time to become socially popular.