The sunshine revolution02 September 2016

Solar panels to charge forklift trucks at Safepac Solar panels to charge forklift trucks at Safepac

How replacing diesel forklifts with electric and using solar panels allows one smart owner to power his trucks for free

Imagine a future where your fleet of electric forklift trucks is charged for free using solar panels on your warehouse roof. For one Mitsubishi customer, that future is now. The idea is the brainchild of Nick Pearson, director of Safepac Professional Movers, a specialist removals, haulage and storage company based in Suffolk.

Pearson’s business performs house removals for the US military and the RAF, which means his forklift operations need to run with military precision. So when he approached Mitsubishi dealer Eastern Forklifts last year about upgrading his diesel fleet, he had no plans to switch from diesel trucks to electric, but after taking a Mitsubishi EDiA on a trial basis, everything changed.

“Traditionally, truck users feel obliged to replace diesel with diesel because electric alternatives, though cheaper and cleaner to run, don’t tend to offer comparable performance,” Paul Brierley from Eastern Forklifts explained. “But the Mitsubishi EDiA range of electrics has changed the game entirely. It delivers higher performance, including acceleration, maximum travel and lift speeds, than most IC engine models.”

One of the advanced new generation of electric counterbalance trucks from Mitsubishi, the EDiA has been developed to excel in typical IC engine applications… as well as outperform its electric counterparts. “We’re very heavy on our forklifts here, we work them very hard for long periods of time, so we’ve always opted for diesel trucks in the past,” Pearson said. “Our work primarily involves moving large 8 x 8 x 4 foot wooden house removal crates that weigh anything from 16-1800 kilos, and our day starts at 4am and ends at 8pm, so when it came to upgrading our fleet, high performance and long shift lengths were key.”

Pearson had traditionally opted for diesel trucks to cope with transporting heavy loads up a 1 in 10 loading ramp leading to the warehouse. “The ramp was the real test for us because you’re using much more torque and energy to get up,” he said. “We need strong, dependable performance so we wanted to double-check how many times the electric truck could do it. The EDiA went straight up all day long… no problem. It had pretty much the same performance as our current diesels, so that helped us make our decision.

“We deal with household possessions and clothes, so it’s important for us to keep the warehouse environment clean and minimise the amount of carbon and dust flying around, so the electric Mitsubishi EDiA was a much better all-round solution for us.”

But it was the potential for slashing running costs that proved the ultimate decider. “We looked at electric versus diesel progressively from a cost point of view,” he added. “We wanted to keep our operating costs to a minimum so we put solar panels on the roof of our warehouse to power the electric charger for the trucks.

“In summer when there’s more daylight we plug the truck in and get a free charge, so the run of the forklift is pretty much for free. We even sell some electricity back. This covers our electricity bills and more. Environmentally it’s cleaner, and we get rebates from the solar panels, so we’re very happy.”

Mark Venables

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