Executive Summary

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently proposed a ban on Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) forklifts and material handling applications up to 12,000 lbs. of lift capacity. CARB’s mandate would ban all internal combustion engine forklifts including hybrid electric solutions, only allowing battery-powered and hydrogen fuel cell forklifts.

This analysis compares the lifecycle emissions profiles of propane and electric-powered forklifts, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. Findings show, for several states, conventional propane engines are superior to electric forklifts, especially when considering marginal emissions. The case for internal combustion engine forklifts becomes even stronger with hybrids and renewable fuels. In fact, nearly all propane ICE forklifts technologies emit extremely low criteria pollutants compared to the regulatory standards.

Regulatory agencies should conduct detailed emissions lifecycle analyses on technologies before considering a ban on specific technologies. An abrupt shift towards zero-tailpipe emission forklifts would be a missed opportunity for accelerating decarbonization using low-carbon, renewable, and blends of renewable and low-carbon fuels.

Optimization of engines and fuels is key to the success of achieving decarbonization and reducing criteria pollutants. This is especially true as fuels and engine technologies continue to innovate, like with the development of high-efficiency engines and renewable propane and blends of propane and renewable dimethyl ether (rDME).

Key Findings:

  • A zero-emissions forklift does not exist.
  • Hybrid electric forklifts, with both conventional and renewable fuels, emit less CO2 than battery-electric forklifts.
  • For most states, NOx emissions from propane-powered forklift engines can be less than half that of battery-electric forklifts powered by the electric grid.
  • 314,000 ICE forklifts are operating in California alone. Replacing all ICE forklifts in the state with battery-electric forklifts would require nearly 10 GWh/day of additional charging capacity.
  • Electrification as a means of decarbonization sounds attractive but as proven, is not real without complete consideration to lifecycle emissions.

To read the full study, conclusion, and recommendations, view the report below.

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