Most people who know anything about lift trucks can tell you that there are different types out there. Generally, they’ll talk about propulsion systems—some forklifts are driven by internal combustion of fuel, some are driven by electric motors, for example. Fewer people, however, you can go a level deeper, differentiating between the various types of electric forklifts out there. There are substantial differences, though, fitting uniquely in different applications, and the more you know about your options, the more informed a choice you can make when deciding which truck type makes the most sense for you. For today, let’s focus on a few electric variants.
Four-Wheel Electric Forklifts
The most recognizable type of lift truck, and what the Average Joe likely thinks of when he hears “forklift” or “towmotor”, is a four-wheel forklift. These trucks typically have forks protruding from the front of the vehicle, feature prototypical masts for lifting, and have a counterbalance in the back of the truck—whether a weight or a heavy battery—to equalize load weight. These trucks are the brutes of the forklift world, lacking somewhat in maneuverability but making up for it in strength by lifting as much as 12,000 lbs. with standard manufacturers and upwards to 40,000 lbs. for specialty application built forklifts. Four-wheel forklifts typically can raise a load 10-15 ft., though some specialized models can raise forks as high as 30 ft.
Three-Wheel Electric Forklifts
Similar to four wheel forklifts, but varying primarily in one obvious area—number of wheels. A three-wheel lift truck is ideal for rounding tight corners and operating in the confines of a warehouse. It looks and operates similar to a four wheel lift truck. The few differences is that they trade some lift capacity for greatly improved maneuverability. In some three-wheel electric models, maneuverability exceeds that of stand-up electric riders. Like their four-wheeled brethren, these trucks also feature counterweights to help balance loads.
Narrow Aisle Electric Forklifts
Narrow-aisle trucks really describe more than one type of specialized lift truck, and include both reach trucks and order pickers. Like three-wheel forklifts, narrow aisle trucks are designed for utmost maneuverability and are ideal for warehouse usage. These trucks are often very low to the ground, making them poor choices for uneven terrain/much outdoor use. They make up for it, however, by delivering a lot of performance in a small package.
Reach trucks feature stabilizing base legs and forks that can not only be raised, but extended forward to “reach” into racks, using a pantograph, to pick up one or two pallets with combined weights as great as 5,500 lbs. These trucks often have operator cabs that tilt back, see-through ceilings or cameras to allow drivers to monitor fork operation closely.
Order pickers have platforms that can be raised to reach items more in the range of your usual three- or four-wheel truck, but are smaller, lower cost and generally carry between 700-800 lbs., including an operator on the platform.
Electric Pallet Jacks
While some question whether electric pallet jacks are really “trucks”, they serve a similar purpose to forklifts in a warehouse. These machines allow an individual to move a pallet of goods from Point A to Point B without having to lift the item themselves. Electric pallet jacks typically do not feature an operator cab, instead having an operator walk the electric pallet jack or stand on a platform and using a control handle with buttons to raise, lower, vary speed and direction, and otherwise control the electric lifting device. Electric pallet trucks typically feature integrated chargers, allowing them to be plugged into a standard 110 outlet (USA), negating the need for a separate charger.
In The End…
There are other specialized, niche electric lift trucks out there. However, the four electric forklift categories above are the primary products in our industry. When you’re considering the best products for improving productivity in your business, look no further than Toyota Electric Forklifts. Finding your perfect product depends on your specific situation. Do not hesitate to ask questions to your supplier in order to make the most informed choice.
Have questions about the various types of forklifts and which might best suit your needs? Contact us today!