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Insight into electric

16 April 2024

The rapid march to electrification and an unpredictable market were high on the agenda, as Logistics Matters spoke to Clark Europe president and CEO Rolf Eiten at LogiMAT.

THE FORKLIFT market is Europe is on a downward curve after an unusually large spike in 2021 in response to the pandemic. 

Clark Europe president and CEO Rolf Eiten explains: “We had a big peak in the market back in 2021, it jumped up 50% so when we saw a decline in 2022 and 2023, that’s normal. If a market expands quickly then there will be phases of consolidation, and I expect this year it will further decline, with growth perhaps from 2025 onwards.”

There has also been great shifts in the types of forklifts being sold. The European market has seen electric pedestrian trucks take over 65% of the market, in sharp contrast to the Asian and North American markets where counterbalance trucks and IC trucks still have a bigger part to play. 

Rolf adds: “As a result we are offering more of these smaller trucks. With the market moving in this direction, we must also focus on very cheap Chinese products coming into the market. This is something for the industry to keep an eye on.”

There are allegations that Chinese manufacturers may be price dumping, which is defined as charging a lower price for export than the normal price in the domestic market. The EU could legislate against this.

Rolf continues: “That said, we are very much focused on what we can do for our customers, improving our product range, working hard on our service offering, and make it easy to work with us.”

Power choices

The rapid march to electrification is taking hold strongly in Europe, with Rolf explaining that ‘everything in Europe is about electrification’. 

“We need more products with electric drive, so we renewed our complete line with electric drive versions. Our new 48v 1.6-2t truck (GEX16-20s) and 80v 2.5-3.5t truck (SE25-35) are front and centre at the show - together they represent 80% of the volume in electric counterbalance trucks.

“We are also excited about a 2.5-3.5t truck on an IC truck chassis powered by lithium, which came a little too late for LogiMAT. We call it a yard truck, and we see this as another step to serve the desire to shift to electric.”

Looking ahead, Rolf says that hydrogen is interesting but he does not expect it will be the core technology for forklifts. 

“I am sure that IC will die one day I think we will have increasing electrification, with lead acid enduring but with lithium taking more and more volume. Five years ago, the price of a lithium battery was five times that of lead acid, whereas now it is maybe two to two and half times the price. Lithium also has almost double the lifetime of lead acid, although maybe we need to change the thinking a little, from selling the lithium battery to renting it, based on the use of the battery.”

Clark has also recently moved into the reconditioned forklift market. The models are refurbished at the firm’s European HQ in Duisburg.

“It is an additional business for us,” sys Rolf. “Dealers don’t always have the time to refurbish the trucks, and we have extensive resources, plus the European parts centre on-site, and we are accustomed to manufacturing to very high quality standards.”

For more information, visit www.clarkmheu.com