Forklift Decisions: Internal Combustion or Electric?

Material Handling Best Practices, Tips, Information and More from Toyota

Forklifts come in two basic types; Internal Combustion and Electric. Before you decide which is better for your application, weigh the advantages and disadvantages as they relate to your needs.

Internal Combustion Forklifts run on either gasoline, diesel fuel, liquid propane gas (LPG) or compressed natural gas (CNG).

AdvantagesDSC_8809 as Smart Object-1 copy

  • Primarily used outdoors (propane can be used indoors but still has emission considerations)

  • Better for inclement weather

  • Initially lower costs

  • No batteries to recharge

  • Typically higher capacity

  • Quickly refueled


  • Emissions considerations.

  • Higher cost per hour to operate because of fuel and maintenance costs.

  • Typically shorter lifespan than an electric forklift

  • Noise considerations

  • Fuel must be stored on site (storage tanks and pumps)

Emissions can be lowered for internal combustion units by increasing catalytic converter capabilities / fuel systems which make the forklifts burn cleaner.

Electric forklifts run off a large battery as the primary power source.


  • Lower cost per hour to operate

  • Quiet

  • No fuel-storage requirements

  • No emissions

  • Longer life cycle

  • Work better in smaller, confined areas


  • Requires a charging station

  • Batteries are large and heavy. Battery lift may be required

  • Typically requires 8 hours to recharge battery and 8 hours to cool down

  • Higher initial cost

  • Slower acceleration

  • Load capacity limited

Recently fast-charge technology has been introduced that reduces the down-time for battery charging.

Determining which forklift fuel type works best for you depends on your use. Look closely at the advantages and disadvantages of each fuel-type to see which is best suited for your application. If your loads are more than 12,000 lbs. then you would definitely need an Internal Combustion (IC) forklift. If your loads are smaller and all indoors, then an Electric forklift may be just the ticket for your material handling business. Explore all of the options available to you and speak with your local Toyota forklift dealer before you make your final decision.

Request A Quote or for pricing, parts & more, click here to find a dealer near you.

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