Difference Between Internal Combustion Forklifts and Electric Forklifts

electric forklifts

Should I buy an internal combustion forklift?

Or should I go for an electric forklift?

If your business relies on forklifts, going through such confusion is obvious. 

After all, you would like to invest in the best solution for your business. Therefore, it is important to know the differences between an electric forklift and an internal combustion forklift. It will help you choose the right one. For example, if you have a limited budget, you might wonder which forklift is right for your business. Or which is better for outdoor operations?

Don’t worry.  We hope that this quick comparison between the internal combustion forklift and the electric forklift can help you choose the right forklift for your operation.

What is Internal Combustion Forklift?

An internal combustion forklift of IC engine performs much like those car or truck engines and is run by fuel. The fuel can be diesel, LPG, CNG, or gasoline.

Here are some benefits of using an internal combustion forklift.

Lower Upfront Cost:

IC forklifts are less costly than electric forklifts. In fact, they cost up to 20 percent less than their electric counterparts. The lower cost of an IC forklift can be attractive to businesses that can’t afford an electric forklift. 


Internal combustion forklifts can be utilized both outdoors and indoors. They are generally good at lifting heavy loads, making these machines the right fit for a range of jobs and environments without affecting their safety and efficiency. 


IC forklifts can be suitable for multi-shift operation as they can be refueled easily. Generally, it can be refueled in nearly 5 minutes, making it ideal for multiple shifts. 

Disadvantages of Internal Combustion Forklifts

Internal combustion forklifts come with many benefits. However, there are some cons associated with internal combustion forklifts:

Demanding Maintenance:

Maintenance might be challenging with IC forklifts. Thanks to their vast number of moving parts and complex machinery. Top of that, IC engines require more frequent maintenance and repair. 

Releasing Pollutants:

IC forklifts release carbon monoxide emissions that should be addressed while using the machines indoor. 

Expensive Fuel Cost in the Long Run:

Although refueling is cheaper in electric forklifts, the fuel cost is likely to be greater over time

What is Electric Forklift?

Electric forklift, as the name suggests, operates on electricity. Being touted as an eco-friendly machine, this type of engine uses a rechargeable battery to power the engine.  Here are some advantages associated with an electric forklift.

Lower Costs of Ownership:

Electric forklifts can be expensive than internal combustion engines. However, the cost might not hurt you later as electric forklifts have lower costs associated with fuel and maintenance. Simply put, you would spend less money over the maintenance of an electric forklift than over the life of an IC forklift. 

Supporting Ergonomics:

Electric forklift creates fewer vibrations and ensures a more comfortable ride than internal combustion forklifts. This way, they improve the ergonomics of the operator as well as ensure comfort. 

Safe for Environment:

Electric forklifts are safe for the environment. Unlike IC forklifts that are operated by fuel, they are run by electricity. Therefore, they create fewer emissions. 

Less Maintenance and Repair:

The repair and maintenance cost for electric forklifts is much less than for internal combustion forklifts. This is because these machines have fewer moving parts, minimizing their need for maintenance. 

Disadvantages of Electric Forklifts

Being Difficult to Use Outside:

Electric forklifts can be challenging to use outside, especially when it is wet. To make them adaptable to the outdoors, they also often require costly treatments of certain engine parts. Good thing is that newer technology has made it easy to operate electric forklifts to operate outdoors with no concerns.

Requiring More Storage Space:

Storing electric forklifts can be a bit more challenging than IC forklifts. For instance, they need up to 200 square feet of storage space for the forklift, the battery, and so on. Moreover, they also require a place where you can charge them. 

Not Easy to Refuel Electric Forklifts:

It can take more time to replace a battery on an electric forklift than to refuel an IC forklift. Moreover, batteries are often required to charge for 8 hours and then cool down for 8 hours in between uses, you might require one battery per shift. This can quickly increase the cost of purchasing an electric forklift. You need to look for forklifts that can operate more efficiently and last for two shifts. 

Key Takeaways: Which Forklift is Right for You?

So after going through the pros and cons of both internal combustion forklifts and electric forklifts, you must have got an idea which can be right for your business. 

Here is a quick guide to choosing the right one between internal combustion and electric forklifts. 


First of all, consider how you want to move the items. 

If most of your operations are indoor, you can prefer an electric forklift. Its compact size means it can easily move between aisles. If you are conscious about the environment, then an electric forklift is a perfect choice. 

For handling materials outside, choose internal combustion or IC forklifts. They are waterproof and operate at full capacity. 

Fueling and Refueling:

Electric forklifts use a battery to operate the entire system and can last 5-8 hours based on the efficiency of the battery and the maintenance of the truck. You have to charge the battery every 8 hours. It means that you need 2-3 spare batteries for multiple shifts. 

Internal combustion forklifts use fossil fuels such as gasoline, LPG, and diesel. One LPG tank can last up to 8 hours. And it takes less than 5 minutes to refuel it. 


Electric forklifts are less costly to maintain than internal combustion forklifts. Therefore, if your business lacks a budget for frequent maintenance, an electric forklift is an ideal option to choose. 

Bottom Line:

It is downright essential to weigh other factors such as the type of operation condition, work cycles, application, and work cycles while choosing between internal and electric combustion forklifts. 

What do you think? Let us know by commenting below!

Author Bio:

My name is Catie Ross, and I work as a Marketing manager for CFE Equipment Corporation. I write informative, original and useful content for readers.

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