Special Report: Electric Forklifts

Special Report: Electric Forklifts

Electric-powered forklifts are growing in popularity amongst merchant businesses, as technological improvements mean the units can offer a growing number of in-use benefits such as reduced emissions and noise without any compromise to performance. PBM reports on the recent launch of Still’s latest RX 60 electric forklift truck.

With stricter emissions standards for diesel vehicles, many merchant firms have reassessed their full vehicles fleet to consider more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective alternatives. For numerous reasons, albeit with some notable exceptions, the internal combustion engine remains the default for delivery vehicles yet merchants such as Lawsons and Covers are among an increasing number to have adopted electric forklifts from a number of manufacturers.

Furthermore, their duties are not just limited to the relatively more amenable surroundings of the warehouse, but are able to operate outside in the yard as well.

Whilst it also has an established portfolio of diesel and LPG machines, Still produced its first electric FLT — the EGS 1000 — back in 1949 when forklifts as a concept were a rarity in Europe. Indeed, the company can trace its expertise in electric engineering right back to its inception in 1920 when founder Hans Still established a business repairing electric motors in Spaldingstrasse, Hamburg.

Now, in its centenary year, the company has expanded its forklift line further with the launch of the latest member of the successful RX 60 electric forklift truck family. With a load capacity of 3.5 to 5.0 tonnes, the new addition is said to offer benefits not only to those customers who primarily handle loads indoors, but also those which have to transport heavy loads outdoors.

In addition to its agility, manoeuvrability and high driving comfort, the compact 80 Volt electric forklift truck is said to offer outstanding handling performance and high availability — all without exhaust fumes.

Power and performance

The Still Performance System is described as standing for “the intelligent linking of all hardware and software components for the lift and travel drive”. As a result, the new RX 60-35/50 has been designed to provide a well-matched package of powerful drive components and sensitive operating functions.

Within the series, seven different vehicle variants are available to customers with a load centre of 500mm as standard, or 600 mm upon request. Furthermore, both lead acid batteries and lithium-ion technology are available whilst a high-performance variant is available in all weight classes and is said to “excel in demanding application profiles with even more handling capacity, more power and acceleration”.

In 2019, independent testing certified that the ‘little brother’ of the new series — the RX 60-25 with a load capacity of 2.5 tonnes — ranked among the “best in direct electric forklift truck competition with a handling performance and gradeability on a par with a comparable diesel forklift truck”.

This successful drive concept has been transferred to the new RX 60 up to 5.0 tonnes, made possible by two powerful encapsulated three-phase drive motors with active cooling in the front axle. In the high performance version, the two 11 kW motors provide even more power and increase the drive motor output by 46% compared to the predecessor.

Manoeuvrability is said to be assured as both motors are driven, even at the full steering angle. Demand-driven active cooling, meanwhile, ensures high thermal stability even at maximum handling performance whilst “robust and maintenance-free” fans cool the encapsulated components of the power electronics as well as the lift and drive motors via temperature control.

High availability

Still asserts that no matter what the application, users will be able to rely on the machine’s availability. This is due to the quick start mode and the automatic spring-loaded parking brake, but also to the intuitive Easy Control on-board computer which enables the truck to be ready for operation in a matter of seconds with the driver immediately presented with a clear and convenient overview of all relevant performance functions and truck information.

Thanks to its low consumption and a battery capacity of 930 Ah (59.5 kWh) — or up to 118.4 kWh in the Li-Ion version of the RX 60-50 — the power pack has been designed to “easily cope with two shifts in a row without interim charging”.

In terms of operator comfort and convenience, and therefore linking in to safety in operation, the RX 60 features a low front body and the well-considered placement of controls and displays, including enhanced leg- and headroom. Furthermore, the mast profiles are designed for optimum visibility to create an extra-large field of vision on the transported goods and past the mast.

Choosing the ‘right’ forklift truck has perhaps always been a complex process that must marry lifting capacity and performance with the particular operational and logistical needs of a business. And increasingly, the choice of the right energy system clearly has a major role to play.

With the performance advantages now offered by modern lead-acid batteries and, particularly, lithium-ion batteries set against the ongoing steps to meet significant CO2 emission reduction targets, merchants now have even more options open to them when considering their materials handling fleets.

Added to that, Still contends that with the RX 60 now with a load capacity of up to 5 tonnes, another segment of the forklift truck market is now given the opportunity to give even more consideration to opting for electric forklifts.

For comprehensive information on the full Still forklift truck range, go to: https://www.still.co.uk/forklift-trucks.html

A version of this article originally appeared in PBM’s December edition. Please click here to read the full issue online.

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