According to figures from the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA), the materials handling sector performed above expectations in 2018 with an overall growth in sales of forklift trucks of 2.5 per cent. The interesting thing is that the growth in sales of diesel engines (7 per cent) was more than double that of electric vehicles (3.4 per cent). This is the opposite of what is happening in the automotive sector where last year the sales of new electric cars rose by a staggering 21 per cent, and they are set to rise again dramatically in 2019.
Given the Government’s goal to ban all sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040 (or sooner), why is the materials handling industry bucking this trend?
We find that, time and again, fear is holding people back. Users are worried about whether electric trucks will cope with the workload and demands of their operation. As warehouse operations intensify and many sites are working 24/7 shifts, 6.5 days per week, it is easy for managers to lose sight of exactly how much their trucks are being used. But in truth, even for seemingly continuous operations and where trucks are used outdoors, electric vehicles can be the ideal solution. Forklift manufacturers have made tremendous improvements in the IP ratings of their trucks and the move to AC electrics has improved their operation and allows trucks to be used outside even in bad weather.
Meanwhile, developments in battery technology over recent years – such as modular chargers, high frequency charging, vented and maintenance-free products – mean that larger capacity, high-performance batteries are becoming the norm for heavy duty operations. And, with the right clamps and attachments, an electric truck can do heavy work more efficiently than one with an IC engine.
Information is key
It is not only important to understand the application thoroughly: it is crucial to get a true picture of actual working hours. Most of the fear around electric trucks not being up to the job is based on a false belief that they are working harder than they actually are. By undertaking a thorough operational analysis we can help users to break this down. For example, we recently worked with a busy pallet manufacturer, whose application consisted of IC engine trucks involved in outside yard work and extended work cycles in a chaotic and demanding operation. In an operation such as this, the fleet manager sees drivers on the trucks for a large part of the shift. Even if the manager gets the data from the fleet telemetry system telling him how many hours the truck has been running, it can still overestimate the actual working hours.
We used our Trak.collect technology to gain accurate information about the real-time operational usage of their vehicles. This is a more accurate picture of the actual energy used in doing the work. It analyses the amp discharge of the truck from the battery, giving the end user a full view of what the truck is doing: this includes rest times, idle times and actual work done. Using this insight we managed to persuade this busy operation to use an electric truck on demo. And, in one instance the truck ran for 2.5 days before it needed charging!
The heavy-duty myth
In reality, true heavy-duty operations account for as little as 0.5 per cent of the forklift truck market. Take the example of independent transport companies, the majority of whom are working 24/7 shifts 6.5 days a week. Despite appearances, the trucks may be working hard for as little as 25 per cent of the day and up to two third of that time the engine is idling. Perhaps there is a busy period when the lorries are being loaded between 6am and 8am, then it might get a busier towards lunchtime, and again between 4pm and 6pm when the lorries arrive back. So in reality, the trucks are working flat-out for small segments of the day. But, in between, they may be left on idle with the engine running a fair amount of that time. This can all make it seem like the trucks are working harder than they actually are.
Demonstrating real use of energy
By using technology such as Trak.collect we can overcome customers’ fears by demonstrating to them their actual use of energy during the operation.. For many, armed with a real-time understanding of the operational usage of their trucks, moving from IC to electric is a logical choice.
The benefits are clear: more reliable power (IC engines break down more regularly as there are more moving parts); less expensive fuel and lower CO2 emissions and noise levels. These days, with the cost of diesel and LPG ever on the increase, fuel costs can be cut by as much as 60 to 70 per cent. The payback over five years then becomes significant.
HOPPECKE has simple-to-use calculator tools available to help you calculate the cost savings that you might achieve by moving to an electric fleet. You just put in the type of truck you are running and the tool does the rest. Contact us to get your free calculator for your fleet: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel 01782 667305.