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Diesel-Electric Hybrid Forklifts: Costs, Features, and Benefits

Hybrid engines are no longer solely the realm of automobiles. Forklifts have recently jumped into the game.

Year after year, forklifts feature improved safety features and efficiency, with manufacturers promoting more environmentally friendly designs. Companies employing hybrid engine forklifts enjoy not only the knowledge that their practices benefit the environment, they save money on fuel costs on a forklift with a diesel-electric hybrid engine.

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Benefits of the Hybrid

Hybrid engine forklifts cause much lower CO2 emissions, making them safer for the environment, as well as opening up possibilities as regards improved public image, and even green credits come tax time. More than this, though, they directly impact your bottom line.

Hybrids require around 50 percent less fuel than traditional diesel engines do. This is another green benefit, as fossil fuel availability is finite. In addition, tires are harder and inflated. The result of both is better mileage, noise reduction, and smoother drivability.

Features of Hybrid Forklifts

In 2009, Toyota launched its line of hybrid forklifts in Japan. The line created less pollution and consumed less fuel, making them environmentally friendly, especially compared to previous models using internal combustion (IC) engines.

The design combined the IC engine with a battery and electric generator. In addition to a fuel tank, energy stores in the rear release energy when the operator applies the brakes, recharging the battery.

STILL released its own version of the diesel-electric hybrid forklift. Diesel fuel drives the generator, with a unit in the engine transferring power control to the electric motor while idling and diesel power when accelerating or decelerating.

An additional feature is that the electronically-controlled motor allows the operator to stop on an incline without setting the brake. The result is a unit that not only saves fuel costs, but also overall wear and tear.

Average Costs of a Hybrid Forklift

Just like a traditional internal combustion engine forklift, the price of a new diesel-electric hybrid forklift varies widely depending on a number of factors. Location, size requirements, and brand all affect price. However, we can provide some basic guidelines on pricing.

The price range on a hybrid, standard capacity model suitable for use in a warehouse runs between $15,000 and $25,000 for the unit itself. In addition, you will pay between $2,500 and $5,000 for a battery and charger. These prices fall well within the range of a comparable IC engine forklift, which runs between $15,000 and $30,000 on average.

For example, one vendor sells a traditional 5,000-pound capacity forklift, with pneumatic tires, for around $20,000, or with air-cushion tires for $18,000. A hybrid forklift with the same capacities, plus battery and charger, costs around $25,000.

Reconditioned models with a 3,000-pound capacity sell for between $5,000 and $10,000 on average.

Operating costs, however, are much lower for a hybrid model. Assuming a work year that includes two shifts daily, and a total of 250 work days, the hybrid costs less than $2,000 to operate. Meanwhile, a diesel forklift runs between $12,000 and $15,000.

Maintenance of a hybrid comes in at around one-third, around $500 annually compared to $1,500.

Your Bottom Line

Despite slightly higher initial costs, hybrid forklifts offer numerous benefits, including much lower operational costs. A single year of operation more than makes up for the higher initial costs, making these a nice option.

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