When To Use An Electric Vs. Propane Forklift
Choosing the best forklift for your business isn’t easy, even for experienced buyers. You have to decide between new vs. used, Toyota vs. the other guys, and of course fuel type.

One of the more common questions we get from forklift buyers is, “should I go with an electric or LP forklift?”

  • Both are clean and quiet compared to gas or diesel
  • Electric forklifts cost more upfront but have a lower cost of ownership overall
  • Changing a propane tank is easier than changing a battery, but electric battery tech has come along way. Many two-shift operations only need one battery

So which one is better? It all depends on your operation…

Electric Forklift Pros and Cons

  • Cleaner and quieter than any other forklift
  • No potentially-hazardous fuel to store
  • No harmful gases for employees to inhale
  • Safe for food and medical applications
  • Less maintenance, fewer parts that can break
  • Lowest cost of ownership of any forklift
  • Higher purchase price vs. an LPG forklift*
  • Multi-shift operations need special charging equipment
  • Electric forklifts designed for outdoor use are available, but LP and diesel have more options

*the extra expense is usually offset within two years

Top Applications for Electric Forklifts
Because electric is a clean form of energy (zero emissions), it’s ideal for applications where fumes could be harmful such as:

  • Food/consumable warehousing and distribution
  • Indoor applications where ventilation is limited
  • Underground applications
  • Pharmaceuticals, or any application that requires a sterile environment

Here are a few businesses in the Bay Area that use electric Toyota forklifts:
The Wine Group – (Livermore  – Food Industry)
Sugar Bowl Bakery – (Hayward – Food Industry)
Peet’s Coffee – (Alameda/Oakland – Food Industry)


LP Forklift Pros and Cons

  • Consistent power throughout the shift
  • Better for applications where the forklift operates remotely and valuable time would be lost bringing it in to charge or swap batteries
  • Lower purchase price compared to an electric forklift
  • Quieter than diesel, but noisier than electric
  • Fuel price can fluctuate
  • Can’t be used for certain applications (food, medical, underground, limited ventilation)

Top Applications for LPG Forklifts
Most industries choose propane forklifts because it’s more convenient to change out a propane tank versus swapping or charging batteries. Also, a propane-powered forklift can operate just about anywhere with the right tires: dirt, gravel, even in the rain. More rugged electric forklifts are out there, but propane is still the go-to.

Here are some businesses in the Bay Area using Toyota LPG forklifts:
Pacific Galvanizing — (Iron Casting  – Oakland)
Cass — (Recycling Center – Oakland)
Ashby Lumber — (Lumber Industry – Berkley/ Concord)

Ashby Lumber has an all-Toyota fleet that includes LP forklifts for out in the yard, electric reach trucks in their warehouse, and diesel forklifts for loading and unloading 50-75 trucks per day.


Electric vs. LP Lift Truck Cost Comparison

We can help you compare costs and decide whether an electric or LPG forklift is right for you. Contact us online or by phone.

You can also take a test drive at our Livermore demo center. Bring your team! It’s a great way to find out which forklift is right for you. Schedule a forklift test drive online or by phone (510) 473-8151.

Contact Total Industries (TMH):
SF Bay Area – Livermore (510) 473-8151
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091

Further Reading
Forklift Battery Charging Options: Fast Vs. Opportunity Charging
Is a Lithium-Ion Forklift Battery Worth the Extra Cost? 
How Long Can a Forklift Run on a Single Tank of Propane?