As the world collectively pursues reduced greenhouse gas emissions, supply chains have a critical role to play.

Green-focused targets have been embraced by governments worldwide with the European Union setting rules to achieve at least 32% renewable energy by 2030. For intensive operations such as those in the wood industry, the number of suitable electric solutions for material handling equipment continues to grow.

However, before deciding whether to electrify materials handling fleets, it’s important for operations to consider what solutions are available and which considerations are priorities. Here, we explore the landscape of industrial truck electrification and what other factors may come into play when considering electric.


Leaving behind internal combustion engine (ICE) power in favour of electrification does not mean sacrificing productivity.

Electric power can deliver the performance an operation would typically expect from a diesel, with charging capability to work effectively in heavy-duty applications. Electric drivetrains also have fewer components and less complexity than ICE, offering similar or better reliability with reduced maintenance.

Electric solutions can help reduce costs related to fuel consumption and engine maintenance. Currently there are incentives, grants, and offset credit programmes, such as the various tax subsidies in many European countries that make the business case even more attractive. Furthermore, it also benefits users that produce excess electricity from their operation.

As governments and businesses embrace electrification as a means to reduce emissions, investment in the infrastructure necessary to support it is also increasing.

Of course, electric lift trucks may not make sense for every operation. Not only must operations find an electric solution with the necessary performance to get the job done, factors like local utility grid capacity and run time requirements come into play. For example, more developed areas with weak electric grids can experience brownouts that slow down operations and time spent charging equipment must not compromise operational schedules.


Electrification is taking on even higher capacity equipment with lithium-ion power. Lithium-ion batteries are capable of delivering the ICE-like performance that high-intensity operations count on – a major step forward from lead-acid battery technology. This capability is possible because lithium-ion batteries can tolerate a high energy draw without overheating or dropping in efficiency. Lithium-ion technology also provides far greater energy density, power transfer and service life than lead-acid batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are powering lift trucks of increasingly high capacity. For example, Hyster introduced a 10 to 18 tonne capacity lift truck with factory integrated lithium-ion power – the J10-18XD series. This truck may help wood applications in reducing emissions, fuel consumption, and maintenance costs, all while boosting performance and efficiency for intensive applications. With exceptional traction power, acceleration, and visibility, it’s a lithium-ion truck designed to make operators feel like they’re driving a diesel machine.

In other industries, electrification is taking on even higher-capacity equipment, with hydrogen fuel cell and lithium-ion battery powered solutions in development for container handlers and reach stackers used in port settings.


Of course, emissions reduction and strong, sustained performance are not the only benefits for wood applications exploring electrification.

Many wood operations worldwide are struggling to recruit, train and retain sufficient labour. In fact, various surveys have shown severe warehouse staff shortages across Europe, with a substantial decline in the availability of forklift operators also often cited as a major problem.

And with demanding duty cycles and inhospitable environments pushing both equipment and operators to their limits, wood industry businesses need to find equipment tough enough to depend on, with the ergonomics to help operators perform at their best.

Ergonomic, electric equipment can be part of the answer to maximising the efficiency and productivity of operators and their time.

Reduced charging or refuelling time, fewer maintenance requirements and easier serviceability can all add up to operators utilising their time moving more loads per hour and more up-time within heavy operations. The reduced maintenance workload associated with electric trucks can also be an important aid for businesses struggling to source technicians from a tight skilled labour pool.

Electric trucks can also support a work environment that can offer greater operator comfort and performance. With no internal combustion engine running, truck noise levels and vibration are reduced, and there are no tailpipe emissions.

The smaller, lighter form factor of a lithium-ion battery pack can also enable strategic design decisions that provide more space in the operator compartment for greater comfort and convenience.

In addition to unique design possibilities, ergonomic fundamentals like visibility and operating position remain primary factors for electric lift trucks. Whether electric or ICE-powered, features like these indicate equipment designed to help support operator comfort and efficiency.

• Visibility – scratch-resistant glass all around cabin, including an armoured glass top window, curved front and rear windows and steel doors with tempered glass for visibility without straining;

• Easy entry and exit – spacious, cockpitstyle cabins with ample space for operators to enter and exit easily and more comfortably;

• Comfortable, adjustable seats – a variety of seat configurations, such as mechanical or air suspension, cloth or vinyl covers, lumbar support and ventilated or heated seats, allow operators to choose their positioning based on their preference and comfort. As a bonus, lateral seat sliders allow for easy positioning and even make room to accommodate an extra seat for trainers to supervise performance;

• Access to information – a full colour display presents truck performance data in one clear screen and can be customised based on the operator’s skill level.

One Hyster lift truck that is well suited in this respect is the J2.5-3.0XNL series. These powerful four-wheel lithium-ion powered electric counterbalanced trucks deliver excellent manoeuvrability and a low cost of operation by combining energy efficiency and performance. At the same time, the strategic design of the integrated lithium-ion battery helps free space in the operator compartment, maximising comfort and convenience to help improve productivity.

The operator compartment is designed with clear unobstructed foot space and a low intermediate step height for easy threepoint entry and exit. A highly adjustable steering column and ergonomically positioned operator’s seat with integrated armrest incorporating mini-levers for hydraulic control and other key functions also supports comfort.

Meanwhile, the dash display transmits continuous feedback to the operator of the truck’s status and is positioned for optimum visibility.


As government regulations and corporate initiatives are looking to reduce emissions, electrification is emerging as a realistic solution to satisfy the business requirements for heavy-duty applications in the wood industry. And beyond supporting green initiatives, electric equipment can help address other operational needs, including labour utilisation and efficiency.

So, what does the future hold for electrification?

Reports indicate that electrification is on the rise. Benefits over ICE-powered forklifts and increases in investments targeted at advancements in battery technology are poised to fuel growth of electric forklifts in the near future. In some wood supply chain businesses, there may be operational advantages of electric power. However, the right choice of lift truck fleet will always depend on the specific application. ­