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What Is a Propane Forklift?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 17, 2024
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A propane forklift is any type of forklift that runs on propane as an energy source, rather than a source such as natural gas, electricity or diesel. Propane forklifts have many benefits that allow them to outdo other forklift types, but there also are a few disadvantages, such as carbon emissions, that can be lethal. The tires used by a propane forklift are either solid or pneumatic, and the forklift can be used in the rain because water will be unable to get into the tank.

Propane forklift models are not much different from other forklifts, especially those that use other liquid fuel sources. The big difference is that it uses propane to power the engine. Using propane instead of other liquid fuels or batteries means the forklift has certain advantages, such as being able to work in the rain, having a large and cheap energy source, and operating at lower temperatures.

When it comes to length of run time, propane is one of the best sources. Battery-powered forklifts, also known as electric forklifts, can run for several hours but then have to be plugged in to charge, usually for about double the amount of potential run time. A propane forklift can keep running as long as propane is in the tank, and propane can be refilled quickly. Compared to other fuel-based forklifts, propane is cheaper and easier to refill.

Running outside in the rain is trouble for electric forklifts, because water can temporarily or permanently damage the battery. Propane tanks on a forklift are sealed. This means the forklift can run in the rain without incurring any damage. These forklifts also can use solid or pneumatic tires for indoor and outdoor use, respectively.

Both diesel and natural gas forklifts run at very high temperatures. If a part breaks, employees will have to wait several hours for the machine to cool before the forklift can be opened up and fixed. If someone accidentally touches the forklift on a heated area, that person can be injured by the severe heat. Propane forklifts also generate a high amount of heat, but it's much less than that of other fuel-based forklifts.

The disadvantage of a propane forklift is one shared by all fuel-based forklifts: carbon emissions. If the forklift is operated indoors, especially in small areas without any ventilation, the operator and other employees can be injured or killed by high exposure to carbon monoxide. This is especially true in cold weather, because higher amounts of emissions will be produced than if the propane forklift were operated in a warmer temperature. Compared to similar forklifts, propane lifts generate fewer emissions, but still create enough to be a problem.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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