News story

Australian battery-electric forklift sales lift

Thursday, 17 August 2006 ( #273 ) - CANBERRA, Australia
by Daphne Haneman An Australian forklift association has reported a significant growth in electric forklift sales in the past decade. Australian Industrial Truck Association (AITA) executive officer Howard Grant said statistics collected by AITA showed battery electric forklift sales trends were emulating petrol and diesel sales. "Over the last 10 years we have observed a perceptible growth in sales of electric forklifts," he said. "Statistics show the proportion of combustion powered forklifts to battery electric used to be 60-40 but, in recent years, the ratio is more like 50-50." Grant cited manufacturers offering improved technology as a potential reason for the increased sales. "A greater range of battery types and fewer maintenance problems have added to the competitive aspect of the trucks. He said a greater focus on the environment was another factor. Sydney-based Hyster Pacific regional sales manager Maurice Hayes said 2005-06 had seen a dramatic increase in deliveries of battery electric forklifts. "In 2005, Hyster delivered 2,850 battery electrics to the marketplace and 3,971 in 2006. In terms of the overall market, this represents a 22 per cent positive swing," he said. Hayes said the reason for the swing was probably to do with technology improvements, making battery electric forklifts economical and competitive with internal combustion units. "Changing a battery now costs AUD6 to AUD8, whereas a tank of gas can cost AUD 25 to AUD 28. In terms of capital acquisition costs compared with fuel, that means a customer hits break-even point at 2-½ years," Hayes said. "Additionally, new technology has lifted travel speeds on the electrics; they have the same programmability to operate at compatible IC speeds. We can now control the hydraulics without fleet assistance or speed shields." However, Hayes said the used equipment market was still sluggish and buyers did not get resale value with electrics. New Zealand Industrial Sales Ltd manager Dennis Rose said IC and Jungheinrich battery electric forklift sales had increased in the last calendar year, but he did not believe that reflected a significant increase in battery electric sales. "To date we have not noticed any major swing to battery electric, however we anticipate a swing in the next 12-18 months," he said. Powerlift Sydney sales manager Alistair Witt said there had been an increase in order intake for Powerlift's range of Nissan Euro battery electrics. "Because of the Euro range and after winning an account with a transport and logistics business, we have noted an increase in sales." Witt said the increase was due to improvements in AC technology and occupational health and safety issues. "It's more electronics than electrics. We weren't getting battery usage on a full shift but now battery capability has improved." Witt believed the rising trend in battery electric sales would continue.