More than a quarter of fork lifts used in Europe and almost half in the US are powered by internal combustion engines. In the future, such significant engine use will create problems, not only in terms of carbon footprint and legislation but also the price of oil.
The demand versus the supply of oil may lead to much higher fuel prices by 2013, according to Ian Melhuish of Hyster’s global product strategy group. “When this happens, alternative fuels will become more attractive to the corporate buyer.”
Some engine manufacturers have reported advantages such as lower engine wear and a reduction in total carbon emissions when using bio fuels. But others have reported increased wear on seals and fuel pump parts, requiring further engine development. Also, to make this a viable fuel source, a huge investment by the agricultural sector in the volume commercialisation of fuel production would be needed.
Bio-Ethanol, which is a petrol equivalent of Bio-diesel, offers reduced carbon emissions and decreases the reliance on petrol-based fuels. But it has been known to damage engine parts and fuel systems.
North American car manufacturer General Motors tested two converted Hyster J2.50 trucks with fuel cells over a period of three months, for 19 hours per day. During this time the trucks were fuelled 137 times, which took ten minutes each time. The consumption per truck was 2.8kg of hydrogen per 24 hour period. General Motors gained a five per cent increase in productivity compared with a conventional electric truck with battery change times of 80 minutes a day.