Too often these days, buyers jump into materials handling equipment choices based on mistaken assumptions about current technology. Nowhere is this more evident than in the selection of energy sources – buyers are often blinded by the hype around ‘new’ solutions.

According to Greg Wood, Technical Solutions Manager at Linde Material Handling Australia, the choice of energy solution should not be taken lightly.

“We do not push one energy source over another. We study each individual application and offer the energy source that best fits the customer’s processes, targets and priorities,” he explains.

While manufacturers like Linde have a wide product offering, with machines powered by a range of sources from LPG to special battery types, it is important for end-users to select the option that is best for their specific application.

“When we’re approached about a new forklift, we ensure that the machine is fit for purpose,” Wood says. “A crucial part of that is determining which energy source is the most suitable.”

During the consultation process, Linde tries to find out:

  • Does the energy option fit the application?
  • Is the infrastructure suitable?
  • What are the environmental benefits?
  • What are the cost implications?

“Before selecting a solution, together with the customer, we analyse the individual application with regard to energy infrastructure, potential power limits or peaks, usage patterns and processes and, of course, return on investment,” he adds.

Wood believes the aim of equipment suppliers should always be to provide the perfect fit between the customer’s processes, the truck and the energy source.

Energy options

Forklifts have come a long way, and not only has their capability been dramatically extended, so too have power sources. Many machines are still powered by traditional internal combustion engines, using petrol, diesel or LPG.

The most significant developments have occurred in the area of battery-electric power, with machines powered by lead-acid batteries, and more recently Lithium-ION batteries and hydrogen fuel cells.

Linde variety of energy solutions


“With so much choice, it’s never been more important to tailor the energy solution to the customer’s needs,” Wood says. “This is more complex today because the barriers are shifting. Applications that previously could only be handled by ICE machines can now be tackled by high performance and efficient battery-powered machines.”

Needs analysis

Energy constitutes a significant component of equipment operating expenses, especially in the current environment of high fuel costs and rising electricity prices. Understandably, fleet managers are more conscious than ever of energy costs, prompting many to reconsider their options when refreshing or expanding their fleets.

“Together with the customer, we analyse the energy consumption of different devices and recommend only the suitable energy sources. If, for example, an electric-powered truck is the best option, then of course we find the right fit between the processes, the battery size, and the charging power,” Wood notes.

This process is aided by Linde’s extensive product range, which includes up to three different battery capacities and at least two charger powers per voltage class, to accommodate a variety of applications.

Those choices are guided by the end-user’s individual circumstances - infrastructure, processes, sustainability and return on investment.

According to Wood, Linde Material Handling has an array of helpful tools to identify appropriate energy sources for each customer.

The arsenal includes the Linde Energy Navigator, a detailed questionnaire which prompts discussions around customer targets, prioritisation, processes and applications.

The next tool, Linde Energy Calculator, simulates the daily operations of the customer and can identify the most appropriate energy source for any application. The calculation considers the specific application and energy demand to compare different energy sources in terms of total operating cost, return on investment and CO2 emissions. For electric trucks, the most suitable battery and charger combination is determined by considering driving and break times, as well as calculating the entire fleet’s peak-power grid draw.

For those who don’t have typical daily operations and need a more practical analysis, we conduct a pragmatic assessment by simulating real-time material handling equipment activity.  This involves considering actual truck driving behaviour, utilisation and real break times.  This information can then be used in conjunction with the Linde Energy Calculator to determine whether a customer’s application really offers adequate breaks for intermediate charging or to avoid selecting batteries or chargers which are bigger (and more expensive) than needed.

The Linde Energy Analyzer uses the power data supplied from the customer’s energy provider to analyse and gain insights into the overall power drawn from the grid over time. It can assess peak loading for applications with a high demand for charging power, or if the application is flexible, the analyzer can identify periods of low energy usage which are more suitable for charging.

These tools ensure that equipment owners understand the real costs of their materials handling operations and take the decision out of the realm of conjecture and into cold, hard economics.

“We’re not about selling equipment, but rather providing sustainable long-term operating efficiency tailored for each and every customer,” Woods stresses.

“You don’t always need the newest, biggest or best solution – you need the one that fits your operations, your requirements, your resources and your budget.”