The Future Is Electric

Industrial trucks that are capable of continuously lifting, lowering, and transporting goods in a fast-paced warehouse environment need the right power unit. For a long time, there was a clear choice to be made for industrial trucks between internal combustion (IC) and electric (E). While warehouse trucks have always been electric, counterbalanced forklift trucks were frequently powered by internal combustion engines. But now, all that has changed – today, “E” has the edge, even when it comes to typical situations where forklift trucks are used. That said, when developing both internal combustion and electric trucks, Linde MH has always focused on energy and resource efficiency for the benefit of its customers – despite doing so indirectly at first.

Internal Combustion and Electric Forklift Trucks with Sustainability at Their Core

Broadly speaking, power units can still be divided into two large groups: internal combustion and electric. Linde MH is the only manufacturer in the world to offer all varieties of these two groups.

Electric Forklift Trucks

Electric forklift trucks from Linde MH with a lead-acid battery, lithium-ion technology (Li-ion), or fuel cell can be operated with virtually no CO₂ emissions, provided that green electricity is used. Linde first identified the opportunities presented by electric drives more than 50 years ago, launching its first forklift truck with an electric drive on the market in 1971. Since then, it has consistently advanced the technology. The vehicles making up its latest X generation of electric forklift trucks match models with a traditional internal combustion engine completely in terms of performance and durability, while also offering the well-known advantages relating to consumption and emissions. They also use the same on-board architecture and software as internal combustion trucks, making the transition to electric forklift trucks even easier for customers. Green hydrogen fuel cells are now also firmly emerging as a more widespread energy source. Linde MH has been active in this area for a very long time as well. It developed its first hydrogen forklift truck together with Siemens around 25 years ago – and its experience with fuel cell technology is paying off today.

Internal Combustion Forklift Trucks

Despite having a traditional engine, the group of forklift trucks with internal combustion drives powered by diesel, gas, and HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil) is also rigorously designed with sustainability in mind. In diesel vehicles, sustainability is ensured through Linde’s invention of a hydrostatic power units, which consists of an internal combustion engine, hydraulic pump, and cradle. This significant development from the 1950s, in which the engine drives the forklift truck only indirectly via the hydraulics, still reduces consumption by around 30 percent today and remains superior to traditional converter drives. What’s more, all diesel engines are HVO-compatible, meaning they can be powered by waste vegetable oil. Produced from sources like used cooking oil and also known as green diesel, HVO can reduce CO₂ by up to 90 percent compared with diesel from mineral oil. Linde MH’s forklift trucks have also long been using climate-friendly gas as an energy source, with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) completely dominant over compressed natural gas (CNG). Gas-powered forklift trucks are quieter and release fewer emissions, making them the ideal option where limits have to be met in indoor spaces. But electric forklift trucks also boast these credentials – and many more besides, which is why internal combustion forklift trucks are likely to be phased out in the medium term.

What Does the Future Hold?

“Climate change alone means that we owe it to future generations to switch our trucks to using clean, environmentally friendly forms of energy,” says Ulrike Just, Executive Vice President Sales & Service at Linde MH. She believes that the new generation of internal combustion trucks currently being built will be the last. The need for electric forklift trucks with Li-ion batteries and later solid-state batteries can no longer be denied. Nevertheless, Linde is already looking ahead to the opportunities presented by hydrogen and began developing its own fuel cells around four years ago. The 24-volt version for smaller warehouse trucks entered series production in September 2023. Just believes that the market will be clearly dominated by electric trucks by 2040 at the latest: “By then, I expect 80 percent of forklift trucks to be powered by battery-electric systems and 20 percent by fuel cells.”

Ulrike Just

Climate change alone means that we owe it to future generations to switch our trucks to using clean forms of energy.

Ulrike Just, Executive Vice President Sales & Service Linde MH