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An electric forklift is a machine used to lift pallets or other goods using a hydraulic lift with fork tines attached to it. This type of forklift is usually battery operated, and it is suitable for light- to medium-duty jobs. Warehouses and factories often have an electric forklift on hand to store goods on high shelves, to load trucks, and to move goods throughout the factory or warehouse space. The wheels of electric forklifts are usually solid rubber for maneuverability and durability, though these types of wheels can limit what surfaces the lift can cross, as the wheels are not suitable for uneven surfaces.
Many electric forklift models allow the driver to sit in the unit and be transported, though a few types of lifts require the driver to walk behind the unit instead. The latter models are operated by a handle that extends from the back of the unit, and controls on the handle will operate the lift functions as well as the drive functions. The driver of the unit is not protected from falling objects as he would be in ride-along models, since these models usually have no overhead cage. Ride-along models protect the driver by shielding him or her from falling objects. The protective cage is usually made from very durable metal.
The batteries included in the electric forklift usually have a fairly high capacity and can run for several hours, but they will need to be charged regularly to ensure proper functioning of the lift. Most lifts feature a standard plug for use with a wall outlet, and the charging time of the batteries can vary significantly by model. In many cases, an electric forklift can feature more than one battery for added running life, though both batteries will eventually need to be charged, meaning the unit will be unusable during the charging period.
One of the advantages of the electric forklift over gasoline or diesel powered lifts is the lack of exhaust fumes. This makes the electric lift suitable for use indoors in warehouses or factories without degrading the overall air quality of the space. Both gasoline and diesel powered lifts will create a significant amount of exhaust that can quickly degrade air quality. These engines also tend to be exceptionally noisy, making them unsuitable for some applications, particularly in large retail spaces. Electric forklift models tend to be much quieter, making them useful in retail establishments.