In line with global trends, leading provider of materials handling equipment in southern Africa, Goscor Lift Truck Company, reports a growing preference for electric forklifts in South Africa.       

Doosan NX Series loading

One of the growing trends in the global forklift industry is the move towards battery-powered forklifts. In its recent report, research company Technavio forecasts that the global battery-powered forklift market will grow at a CAGR of 9% from 2018-2022. In line with this global trend, Goscor Lift Truck Company (GLTC) has seen a growing move towards electrics in the local market.

To give an idea, Darryl Shafto, MD of GLTC, reveals that the company recently delivered a big order of 55 electric Doosan B35-Pro7 4-wheel counterbalance trucks to AB InBev (previously SAB), as opposed to the gas-powered trucks the beverages company usually bought from GLTC. 

Key drivers

What are the key drivers of this trend? From a sector perspective, electric trucks are especially popular in the food and bottling, retail and distribution sectors. These industries prefer electric forklifts owing to their low greenhouse gas emissions and noise levels.

“Apart from the environmental benefits, electric forklifts also offer lower running costs compared with their internal combustion engine counterparts. Bear in mind that fuel is a major cost component of most logistics operations, and any opportunity to cut this cost is most welcome,” says Shafto.

From a cost perspective, Shafto reasons that a battery-powered forklift can be as much as 50% cost-effective to run than a diesel comparative. For example, the cost of propelling an electric forklift is 50% less than the cost of propelling an internal combustion engine forklift.

“Additionally, electric forklifts generally have a longer lifespan than internal combustion engine forklifts. With electric forklifts, services are also less frequent – where you need three services with an internal combustion engine forklift, you need one with an electric unit – translating into huge cost savings,” adds Shafto.

Meeting demand

As the market for battery-powered forklifts takes off in South Africa, with our wide range of electric forklifts in the stable, Shafto says GLTC is well equipped to meet local customers’ needs. “For example, our principal, Crown, only manufactures electrics which target the warehousing sector – such as the powered pallet truck range (WP, WPS, WT and GPC), the three-wheel counter balance (SCT) and reach trucks (ESR),” he says.

Meanwhile, another GLTC principal, Doosan, is targeting the four-wheel counter balance market, which is traditionally dominated by gas and diesel ranges. This is regarded as the benchmark for electric trucks in four key areas: productivity, ergonomics, safety and serviceability.

Advancements in battery tech

“Our range of electric forklifts are powered by lead-acid, copper stretched metal (CSM) and lithium-ion batteries. Lead-acid batteries have for years been trusted as the power source for electric forklifts. The usage of these batteries in material handling equipment has proved to be cost-efficient than diesel and gas equivalents,” explains Shafto.

One of the downsides of lead-acid battery technology has always been short intervals between recharge, resulting in unwanted downtime. However, battery technology is evolving. For example, with improving battery technology and management systems, lead-acid battery cycles have improved from 1 250 cycles to between 1 500 and 1 800 cycles, according to Shafto.

There has also been advances in the battery technology with the arrival of CSM and lithium-ion batteries, which also does away with traditional battery bays. “Lithium-ion batteries, in particular, have improved cycles of up to 3 000, compared with 1 250 on older technology. Last year, Doosan gave a glimpse of its new high-tech forklift, running on lithium-ion batteries. Thanks to this new power source, the B25S-7 Series will run two to three times longer than with the existing lead-acid battery, with a 33% shorter charging time,” concludes Shafto. 

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Crown Publications, one of South Africa’s largest business-to-business publishing houses, came into existence in 1986. Since then, the company has grown from producing a single magazine, Electricity SA (renamed Electricity+Control), to publishing six monthly magazines, three quarterlies, and a number of engineering handbooks.

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