Get a Free Price Quote From Your Local Dealer

Find A Dealer

How to Choose Forklift by Fuel Type

Published on January 24, 2024

Explore Advantages, Disadvantages & Prices

Interested in understanding the various fuel options available for powering modern forklifts? You've come to the right place. In this article, we will provide some detailed information on: 

  • The different types of forklift fuel options  
  • Key specifications, pros and cons, applications, and pricing for each fuel type  
  • Guidelines to help you choose the most suitable forklift fuel for your specific requirements  

1. Electric Forklifts

Bobcat electric forklifts are available in a variety of models and styles, including:  

  • Sit-down Riders 
  • Stand-up Riders 
  • Reach Trucks 
  • Order Pickers 
  • Narrow Aisle 
  • Pallet Jacks 
  • Pallet Stackers 

All of them share a common trait—they are all driven by electric power provided by a battery. However, there are two possible types of batteries: lead-acid and lithium-ion. These technologies diverge from each other and present distinct pros and cons. Let's delve deeper into each type for a more comprehensive understanding. 

 a. Forklift: Electric - Lead-Acid Batteries

Lead-acid batteries dominate the forklift battery market due to their widespread usage. These batteries operate by utilizing a chemical reaction between lead plates and sulfuric acid to generate electrical power. 

Capacity: Lead-acid electric forklifts typically have a lift capacity ranging from 1,500 to 12,000 lbs. However, larger models capable of handling up to 20,000 lbs. are also available. 


  • Environmentally friendly: Lead-acid batteries produce no exhaust emissions, safeguarding employees from potential harm. 
  • Low noise levels: These forklifts operate cleanly, making them suitable for indoor applications, confined spaces, food processing environments, and cold storage facilities. 
  • Reduced maintenance/repair costs: With a simpler design and fewer moving parts, repairs are easier and there is no need to dispose of engine and transmission fluid waste. 
  • Operator comfort: Electric forklifts generate less noise and vibration, minimizing operator fatigue. 
  • Cost-effective operation: Rechargeable batteries require low maintenance, resulting in cheaper running costs and reduced long-term fuel expenses. 


  • Lengthy recharge time: Lead-acid batteries can take a considerable amount of time to recharge, which can pose challenges for 24/7 operations. 
  • Dedicated charging infrastructure: A dedicated charging station with dry, well-ventilated, and temperature-controlled conditions is necessary for proper battery maintenance. 
  • Higher upfront cost: Compared to other types of forklifts, electric forklifts with lead-acid batteries may have a higher initial cost. However, this can be offset by long-term savings due to lower maintenance expenses and higher fuel efficiency. 
  • Disposal of spent batteries has come under strict oversite. Many battery manufacturers take them on trade for recycling, however not all so and consideration should be made. 
  • The process of creating these batteries is destructive to the environment and create many waste products. This has led some to question these technologies true environmental friendliness. 

Applications: Lead-acid electric forklifts find application in various settings, including: 

  • Warehouses 
  • Distribution Centers 
  • Manufacturing Facilities 
  • Retail Stores 
  • Grocery Stores 

Price: Typically, electric forklifts equipped with lead-acid batteries are more expensive than their gas or diesel counterparts. The cost of a new electric forklift can range from $20,000 to $600,000 or more, depending on factors such as manufacturer, model, lifting capacity, and features. Alternatively, used electric forklifts can be purchased or leased for lower prices, typically ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 based on the equipment's age and condition. 

b. Forklift: Electric - Lithium-Ion Batteries 

One of the newer technologies available within the electric forklift range are Lithium Ion. Li-ion forklift batteries offer extended run times, shorter charging cycles, and a longer lifespan compared to lead-acid batteries. 


Lithium-ion batteries are available in nearly any size that lead-acid batteries come in. If a specific battery size is not readily available, manufacturers can often custom-build one to meet your requirements. 


Forklifts powered by lithium-ion batteries share the advantages of their lead-acid counterparts. Additionally, Li-ion batteries provide benefits that lead-acid batteries lack, such as: 

  • Faster charging: Li-ion batteries can reach full charge from 30% capacity in as little as 1 hour, while fully charging a lead-acid battery through opportunity charging can take 4 to 6 hours. 
  • No maintenance: Lead-acid batteries require regular watering and general upkeep, whereas lithium-ion forklift batteries do not require watering or any maintenance. 
  • Enhanced productivity: Lead-acid forklifts gradually lose power as their battery drains, while Li-ion batteries maintain full power until the very end. 
  • Longer lifespan: Conventional lead-acid batteries typically last 3 to 5 years (significantly less if opportunity charged), whereas lithium-ion batteries can last for 10 years or even longer. 
  • Since Li-ion technology primarily involves the battery and charging systems, Li-ion tech can be rather easily retrofitted into previously used lead-acid operated forklifts, eliminating the need to purchase an entirely new forklift. 


  • Higher upfront cost: Unless operating a multi-shift, 24/7 operation that allows for a quicker return on investment (ROI), lithium-ion batteries may not be financially advantageous compared to lead-acid batteries. 
  • Dedicated charging space required: Although charging times are short, Li-ion forklifts need a designated area for charging, potentially occupying space that could be utilized for other purposes. 
  • Since Li-ion batteries are generally lighter than their lead-acid counterparts, additional consideration for counterweighing the forklift is necessary. 
  • Like their Lead-acid counterparts, disposal of spent batteries has come under strict oversite. Many battery manufacturers take them on trade for recycling, however not all so and consideration should be made. 
  • The process of creating these batteries is also destructive to the environment and create many waste products. This has led some to question these technologies true environmental friendliness. 

Applications: Lithium-ion forklift batteries find utility in various settings, including: 

  • Warehouses 
  • Distribution centers 
  • Manufacturing facilities 
  • Retail stores 
  • Grocery stores 
  • Cold storage environments 


Lithium-ion forklift batteries can be twice as expensive as their lead-acid counterparts. However, most forklift chassis do not require any modifications to accommodate a lithium-ion battery. And while most forklifts can be interchanged between Lead-Acid and Lithium Ion, regulations are quickly being put into place in order to curb this, such as EPA and UL listings. 

2. Internal Combustion Forklifts 

All internal combustion (IC) forklifts use an engine and combustible fuel for power. That said, they can be powered by a variety of fuel types. Let’s discuss each in more detail. 

Internal combustion forklifts have been the most popular type of forklift fuel for decades. 

a. Forklifts: IC, Liquid Petroleum Gas (Lpg) 

LPG has been a preferred fuel for forklifts due to its widespread availability, cost-effectiveness, and indoor usability. Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) forklifts, also referred to as propane forklifts, are a popular type of material handling equipment powered by propane gas. 

LPG forklifts are available with both cushion and pneumatic tires, making them suitable for various indoor and outdoor operations. One advantage of propane forklifts is their versatility, allowing them to be used in a broader range of environments and applications compared to other forklifts. 


LPG forklifts are designed to handle heavy loads over short to medium distances. Their lifting capacity typically ranges from 3,000 lbs. to 15,000 lbs., with some models extending to 20,000 lbs. 


  • Lower upfront cost compared to electric forklifts: Essentially, all that is required is the forklift itself, some LP tanks, and a designated storage area for them. No costly charging stations needed. 
  • Fuel costs are generally lower than diesel-powered forklifts. 
  • More environmentally friendly than diesel-powered forklifts, emitting fewer pollutants. 
  • Increased versatility as they can be used both indoors and outdoors. 
  • Quick LPG tank swaps, minimizing downtime during refueling. 


  • Requires propane tanks, which can pose risks to workers, have limited fuel capacity compared to internal tanks, and contribute to maintenance costs. 
  • Higher maintenance costs than electric forklifts due to more moving parts. 
  • Noisier and require greater ventilation than electric forklifts, which may be a concern for certain indoor applications. 
  • Necessitate fuel tank storage space and reliance on a propane refueling company. 


LPG forklifts are utilized across a wide range of applications, including: 

  • Warehouses 
  • Distribution centers 
  • Manufacturing facilities 
  • Construction sites  
  • Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) proves advantageous in locations where diesel refilling stations are not readily available. 


Generally, LPG forklifts are less expensive than their electric and diesel-powered counterparts. For instance, new LPG forklifts can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 or more. Conversely, used LPG forklifts can be purchased at lower prices, typically ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on their age and condition. 

b. Forklifts: IC, Dual-Fuel  

Dual-fuel forklifts are those equipped with both LPG (propane) and gasoline fuel systems. They can be run on either of the fuel types but not at the same time.  

Dual-fuel forklifts are available in various styles and lifting capacities to meet different industries' needs, with indoor and outdoor models. This makes them versatile enough to handle various applications.  


Most dual-fuel forklifts are designed to lift loads ranging from 3,000 to 15,000 lbs. But larger models are available for heavier lifting applications. 

Pros :

  • These are often the preferred type of forklifts for large rental companies. They consume less fuel and have longer run times, and the ability to run off gasoline makes for a more familiar re-fueling process for most people 
  • Fewer pollutants are emitted compared to gasoline-only forklifts, making them a more environmentally friendly choice. 
  • The ability to switch between gasoline and propane fuel sources offers more flexibility, depending on the application, availability, and cost of each fuel. 
  • Dual-fuel forklifts typically have longer lifespans than gasoline-only forklifts due to their reduced wear and tear on the engine. 

Cons :

  • Higher upfront cost: Dual-fuel forklifts are generally more expensive than traditional LPG-only forklifts. This is due to the added technology and materials required for dual-fuel capabilities. 
  • More maintenance: Dual-fuel forklifts require more maintenance than traditional gasoline-only forklifts due to the added components needed for dual-fuel operation. 


  • Manufacturing 
  • Warehousing 
  • Construction 
  • Agriculture 

Dual-fuel forklifts are especially useful in applications that require flexibility in fuel choices and where emission reductions are a concern. 


Dual-fuel forklifts typically cost more than traditional gasoline-only forklifts. Prices can range from $20,000 to $60,000 depending on the model, capacity, and features.  

3. Forklifts: IC - Diesel 

Diesel forklifts are a popular choice when it comes to higher lifting capacities. 

Typically, diesel lift trucks are designed for outdoor use and are equipped with pneumatic-type tires. Outdoor use is recommended for these forklifts, primarily because they generate more noise and emissions compared to LP or gas-powered forklifts. 

The robust designs of diesel forklifts offer power and versatility, making them well-suited for various industries, including construction & construction product yards, agriculture, recycling, foundries, and lumber. 


Diesel forklifts come in a wide range of models and styles, offering lifting capacities that span from approximately 3,000 lbs. to over 40,000 lbs. In fact, there are even heavier-capacity diesel forklifts capable of lifting loads exceeding 55,000 lbs., such as the Bobcat High-Capacity IC Pneumatic Diesel DV250S-7 Forklift.

Diesel forklifts are known for their high torque, enabling them to handle heavy loads and navigate challenging terrains. 


  • Off-road capabilities: Diesel forklifts provide greater stability on uneven surfaces and rough terrains. 
  • Longer operational duration: They can operate for extended periods without refueling and refueling is generally quicker and easier compared to changing LPG tanks or recharging batteries. 
  • Enhanced load capacity: Diesel forklifts can handle heavier and larger loads compared to electric or gas forklifts, and they also offer faster acceleration. 
  • Higher torque: The engines of diesel forklift trucks deliver greater power output, making them ideal for lifting substantial loads and operating on inclines. 
  • Long service life: Diesel forklifts are known for their durability, making them cost-effective for businesses that require heavy lifting equipment. 
  • No need for battery charging stations: They can be refueled directly from the tank, eliminating the need for extra space for charging infrastructure. 


  • Higher maintenance costs: Diesel forklifts involve more moving parts, resulting in increased maintenance requirements compared to electric lifts. 
  • Higher long-term operational expenses: Diesel forklifts generally have a shorter lifespan, requiring replacement approximately every eight years, whereas electric lifts often run for 12 years. 
  • Limited maneuverability: To remain stable in outdoor or heavier applications, diesel forklifts may have restrictions in terms of maneuverability when compared to electric lifts. 
  • Emission restrictions for indoor use: Due to emissions, diesel forklifts are not suitable for poorly ventilated indoor environments according to OSHA guidelines. 

Applications: Diesel forklifts find applications in various industries and settings, including: 

  • Construction Sites 
  • Shipping Yards 
  • Railways 
  • Agriculture 
  • Oil/Gas 
  • Lumber Yards 
  • Utilities 


On average, new diesel forklifts can range in price from $20,000 to $50,000, depending on the weight capacity and additional features. Certain models may have higher costs due to advanced features like GPS tracking, specialized attachments, or ergonomic cabs. 

What Fuel Is Best for Your Forklift?

Determining the optimal fuel for your forklift depends on various factors, including application requirements, fuel availability, budget considerations, and more. Let's delve into each factor to help you make an informed decision. 

6 Key Questions to Guide Your Decision

1. How Much Weight-Lifting Capacity Is Needed?

Consider the lifting capacity required for your operations. Internal combustion forklifts, especially diesel-powered models, typically offer higher lifting capacities compared to electric forklifts. 

2. Will the Forklift Be Used Indoors, Outdoors, or Both?

Evaluate the operating environment. If you'll be working in wet areas, options like LPG, gasoline, or diesel forklifts are suitable. For cold room applications, electric or hydrogen forklifts may be preferable. 

3. How Much Available Space Do You Have?

Assess the available space in your facility. Electric forklifts necessitate a charging room, while CNG forklifts require dedicated storage space for gas cylinders. Consider your space constraints when choosing a forklift type. 

4. What Type of Terrain Will the Forklift Be Used On?

Analyze the terrain where the forklift will operate. Diesel pneumatic forklifts excel on uneven or rough surfaces, as well as in outdoor and spacious environments such as docks, construction sites, and industrial areas. Understand your terrain requirements before finalizing your choice. 

5. What Is the Fuel Availability?

Evaluate the availability of different fuel options for your forklift. Can you easily and affordably obtain LPG gas, gasoline, or diesel? If not, an electric forklift might be a better fit. Additionally, consider long-term costs, such as electricity expenses versus refueling services 

6. Are Emissions a Concern?

If emission reduction is a priority, consider the environmental impact of each fuel type. Internal combustion forklifts, particularly diesel-powered ones, generate higher levels of pollution. Propane forklifts also produce emissions and may have a lesser environmental profile compared to other fuels. Electric or natural gas generally emit fewer pollutants, provided that the generation of their energy source does not counterbalance the emissions reduction. If feasible within your budget, opting for low-emission forklifts can safeguard your operators, workers, and the environment. 

By carefully considering these questions, you can determine the best fuel choice for your specific forklift needs, promoting operational efficiency, environmental responsibility, and worker well-being. 

All Forklift Fuel Types Compared

Here’s a simple comparison of all the forklift fuel types: 

New and Emerging Technologies: 

1. Forklifts: Compressed Natural Gas (Cng) 

Forklifts powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) are gaining popularity as companies strive to reduce their carbon footprint and operational costs. CNG consists of compressed and filtered methane, making it the fuel source for these forklift models. 

CNG forklifts are increasingly favored due to their lower carbon monoxide emissions compared to gasoline or diesel counterparts, aiding companies in meeting indoor air quality standards set by OSHA. 

The market offers a range of CNG forklift models and styles, including both counterbalance and narrow aisle configurations. 


CNG forklifts have lifting capacities that span from 3,000 to 55,000 lbs. 


  • Environmentally friendly: CNG forklifts produce fewer emissions, contributing to improved air quality within the work environment. 
  • Convenient refueling: CNG tanks can be refilled without the need for removal, making the refueling process easy, fast, and adaptable, typically taking less than five minutes. 
  • Low overall maintenance costs: CNG forklifts boast minimal moving parts and require fewer repairs compared to other fuel types. 
  • Extended engine lifespan: The less corrosive nature of CNG engines allows for longer-lasting performance compared to other fuel/engine combinations. 
  • Cost savings: CNG fuel is often cheaper than gasoline or diesel, leading to potential long-term cost savings. 


  • Higher upfront cost: CNG forklifts generally carry a higher price tag compared to propane and gasoline options. 
  • Limited availability: CNG fuel and replacement parts may be less accessible, potentially increasing expenses. 
  • Increased refueling frequency: CNG forklifts require more fuel to produce the same energy output as other fuel types, necessitating more frequent refueling. 
  • Larger fuel storage space: Due to increased fuel requirements, CNG forklifts occupy more space for fuel storage compared to propane or gasoline options. 
  • Potential higher maintenance needs: The relatively more complex fuel system of CNG forklifts may require additional maintenance compared to traditional forklifts. 

Applications: CNG forklifts find utility in various indoor environments, such as: 

  • Warehouses 
  • Distribution Centers 
  • Manufacturing Facilities 
  • Ports 

CNG forklifts prove particularly beneficial in indoor settings due to their reduced emissions and quieter operation. 


Expect CNG forklifts to have a higher price compared to traditional LPG or electric forklifts. Additionally, consider the additional cost associated with installing a dedicated fueling station. 

2. Forklifts: Hydrogen Fuel Cell 

Hydrogen forklifts operate using hydrogen fuel cells instead of traditional lead-acid batteries or internal combustion engines. These fuel cells produce electricity through a chemical reaction, which directly powers the forklift. 

In recent years, hydrogen forklifts have gained popularity due to their efficiency, reduced environmental impact, and lower operating costs. 


Hydrogen forklifts are offered in a range of models and styles, catering to various needs. They come in compact models with lifting capacities as low as 2,000 lbs. and larger models capable of lifting up to 33,000 lbs. Different styles include stand-up, sit-down, and walkie configurations, with some models specifically designed for narrow aisles and tight spaces. 


  • Extended run time: Hydrogen forklifts typically have longer operational durations compared to other fuel types. 
  • Faster refueling: Refueling hydrogen forklifts is quicker than recharging electric forklifts or refueling traditional gas-powered forklifts, leading to increased productivity and reduced downtime. 
  • Zero-emission operation: Hydrogen forklifts operate without emitting pollutants, making them a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to conventional forklifts. 
  • Higher efficiency: Hydrogen fuel cells exhibit greater efficiency compared to traditional lead-acid batteries, resulting in lower operating costs over time. 
  • Cold-weather suitability: Hydrogen forklifts can operate effectively in cold temperatures without the need for frequent battery changes. 


  • Higher upfront cost: Hydrogen forklifts generally have a higher initial investment compared to lead-acid options, which may present a barrier for some businesses. 
  • Limited hydrogen refueling infrastructure: The availability of hydrogen refueling stations is not as widespread as traditional gasoline or electric charging infrastructure. 

Applications: Hydrogen forklifts find utility in various industries, including: 

  • Manufacturing 
  • Distribution 
  • Logistics 
  • Warehousing 
  • Cold Storage Facilities 


Hydrogen forklifts tend to be more expensive than electric and other internal combustion forklifts with different fuel types. On average, the cost of hydrogen forklifts can range from $50,000 to $100,000.