Electric Vs. Combustion Engine Forklifts: Which is The Better Option?

Any business that owns a warehouse should also own a forklift. A forklift increases operational efficiency and keeps your employees safe. When shopping for one, you will come across electric and internal combustion forklifts. The best choice for your business and needs will depend on the work environment and the application. Both types of forklifts have similarities and differences, and pros and cons. We will compare the two so you can pick the one that would be a better fit for your business.

Internal Combustion Vs. Electric Forklifts: What is The Difference?

While there are several differences between internal combustion and electric forklifts, the primary difference is what they run on. Internal combustion forklifts have an engine like you would get in a car or truck and run on gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas, or liquified petroleum gas.

Their engines create a lot of power, making them the better option if you require higher load and lifting capabilities.

Electric forklifts, on the other hand, use a rechargeable battery for power. Their batteries last between three and twelve hours. You should always check the forklift’s average battery life against your application to ensure you have enough power for what you need the forklift for.

Noise and Use Environment

Another difference between these types of forklifts is how much noise they make, and the environments you can use them in. Internal combustion forklifts make a lot more noise than electric ones. In many cases, electric forklifts run almost silently, making them the better option for indoor use. That said, you can still use an internal combustion forklift indoors, but there is another crucial consideration to keep in mind.


Since they burn fuel, internal combustion forklifts produce emissions. Even though manufacturers have become much better at managing emissions in the last few years, it is quite challenging to use an internal combustion forklift indoors.

Since they run on batteries, electric forklifts do not produce emissions. For this reason, they are considered the best option if you want to use a forklift indoors.


Another crucial consideration is the purchase and maintenance costs. An internal combustion engine is typically much cheaper than an electric one. This makes them very accessible for businesses. However, owners must contend with high gas prices and higher maintenance costs.

The reason for the higher maintenance cost is the many more moving parts in an internal combustion forklift. Additionally, there is always the risk of a spill, breakdown, or leak that could halt your operations.

Electric forklifts are much more expensive but are much cheaper to own. There are fewer running parts, and you do not have to worry about gas prices. However, you must consider energy costs because you need to charge them frequently.

If you are worried about the cost of either option, you can choose to rent a forklift for however long you need. Contacting a Noblelift forklift dealer and rental company should lead you to different forklift purchase and rental options. You can pick whichever choice would be best for your business.

Fueling and Charging

Another advantage of internal combustion forklifts over electric ones is how fast you can refuel. You can go from an empty tank to a full one in minutes. This makes them a much more accessible option as you can find fuel easily unless you like in a remote area.

Electric forklifts take hours to charge. Even though it is coming down, the typical charging time for an electric forklift is about 8 hours. Such significant downtimes are why many businesses charge their forklifts at night when they are not needed.


The average electric forklift has a much more compact design compared to an internal combustion one. For this reason, the former is much easier to maneuver. Their compact design also gives electric forklifts a much tighter turning radius, making them better suited for cramped or small warehouses.

Internal combustion and electric forklifts are fundamentally different and have their pros and cons. Their features make them suited for different environments. For example, internal combustion forklifts are better suited for the outdoors due to their emissions, and electric ones are better for indoor use because they do not produce emissions and are quieter. Your option should depend on your specific use case, but you can rent one first to see if it would be suitable for you.

If you have any questions, please ask below!