Big truck power

06 September 2023

Are big trucks ready for the lithium-ion age, asks Jan Willem van den Brand.

AS THE world collectively pursues reduced greenhouse gas emissions, supply chains have a critical role to play. For intensive operations, the number of electric material handling equipment solutions continues to grow.

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

Electric power can deliver the performance you expect from a diesel, with charging capability to work effectively in heavy-duty applications.

Furthermore, electric drivetrains have fewer components and less complexity than ICE, offering similar or better reliability with reduced maintenance. Governments and businesses are also embracing electrification to reduce emissions and are investing in the infrastructure necessary to support it.

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

Of course, electric lift trucks may not make sense for every operation. Operations must find an electric solution with the necessary performance to get the job done, and 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.

Equipment powered by hydrogen fuel cells combine the simplicity and sustained performance of internal combustion engines with zero harmful emissions and the maintenance-friendly attributes of electric technologies. An added benefit is the speed with which they can be refuelled, with no downtime for battery changing and charging, and suitable for operations with limited grid capacity for opportunity charging.

Lithium-ion batteries are also capable of delivering the ICE-like performance that high-intensity operations count on – a major step forward. 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 10 to 18 tonne capacity lift truck model in 2021.

Now, electrification is taking on even higher-capacity equipment, with hydrogen fuel cell and lithium-ion battery powered solutions in development for Hyster container handlers and ReachStackers used in port settings.

The large lithium-ion battery is offering a choice between conventional and opportunity charging, designed for a medium-duty cycle. There is also a hydrogen fuel cell working in combination with a lithium-ion battery, offering a choice between conventional and opportunity charging, and standing up to a heavy-duty cycle – enabling operators to work a full day without refilling.

As government regulations and corporate initiatives look to reduce emissions, electrification is emerging as a realistic solution for heavy-duty applications. And beyond supporting green initiatives, electric equipment can help address other operational needs, including labour utilisation, ergonomics, and efficiency.

Jan Willem van den Brand, director global market development big trucks, Hyster

For more information, visit