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Green Forklift Options: Big Brands Focus on Energy Conservation

Green forklift

Is it any wonder that the forklift industry is going green? Green forklifts are on the rise, and we're not talking color. Eco-friendly forklift design is increasing in popularity as it provides a dual benefit to both the environment and operator budgets.

Eco-friendly trends in industrial forklifts

One instance of green forklift dominance was the recent boom in electric forklift sales. As of 2010, electric forklifts made up close to 60% of the forklift market, a whopping 45% rise from just two decades prior. Companies began to "lean green" in electric lift trucks to take advantage of benefits like lower fuel costs, operating costs, and emissions.

Top forklift manufacturers listened to customer demand and have since taken green forklift design more seriously. In 2012, Toyota was named the Green Supply Chain Partner by Inbound Logistics for the fourth year in a row. Toyota was recognized for their green manufacturing processes and eco-friendly forklift designs.

The president of Toyota Material Handling USA Jeff Rufener confirms, "We make green initiatives a priority at our zero-landfill manufacturing plant in Columbus, Ind. In addition, we require our top 65 suppliers, who account for more than 75% of materials purchased locally, to have an environmental management system in place at their facilities too."

Mitsubishi is another forklift manufacturer that focuses on environmentally conscious forklift operation. Mitsubishi internal combustion lift trucks come with envirO2 engines to ease the burden on the environment; Mitsubishi also boasts ISO 14001 Certification in factory settings after integrating an internal environmental management system.

Hydrogen fuel cells for green forklift power

Green forklifts may now be efficiently powered by hydrogen fuel cells to provide all the benefits of electric lift truck power with the added convenience of quick refueling and no recharging necessary. Hydrogen fuel cells can offer consistent operating power ranging from 8 kW-32 kW, depending on the model. Even better, hydrogen-powered lift trucks can be used in more extreme environments like freezers and coolers since fuel cells are not affected by temperature.

Although hydrogen-powered trucks are notably more expensive than gas-powered trucks, several major brands in the US have chosen to integrate hydrogen fuel cell forklifts to promote sustainability - even without government subsidies. Top brands include Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Google, Central Grocers, Sysco, and Wegmans.

Fortune 500 companies that can afford to splurge use costlier hydrogen fuel cell lift trucks for two specific reasons: environmental consciousness and operator efficiency. Operators that drive a fuel cell forklift compared to a propane, gas, or diesel truck "can do their job better," according to policy director James Warner of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association.

In order to make hydrogen fuel cells a more mainstream green forklift technology, costs must drop significantly. Once a cheaper source of hydrogen fuel is introduced, hydrogen-powered forklifts may become the norm in every factory and warehouse.