As the counterpart of electric forklifts, internal combustion (IC) forklifts have the ability to operate in conditions where battery power isn’t practical. More specifically, IC forklifts are generally optimal for working outdoors or in remote areas where charging and swapping out batteries isn’t realistic. At the same time, the range of applications for combustion forklifts is also substantially broader. With lifting capacities ranging anywhere from 3,000 to 125,000 pounds, there are jobs combustion lifts can accomplish that electric forklifts simply can’t.

In this post, we’ll explain the differences between the two classes of internal combustion forklifts and explore the environments and tasks they’re designed for.

Class IV Combustion Forklifts

Class IV forklifts are powered by an internal combustion engine and have cushioned tires. Their engines can be fueled by diesel, liquefied petroleum (LP) gas, gasoline, or compressed natural gas. Unlike pneumatic tires, cushioned tires are made of solid rubber and do not require air. They’re easier to maintain and less susceptible to leaks and flats but lack the traction of pneumatic tires. Additionally, class IV forklifts generally handle better in tighter spaces due to a smaller turn radius.

These factors make class IV forklifts better suited for smooth floor applications, such as indoors on loading docks. With models that offer lifting capacities of up to 100,000 pounds, they’re frequently designed to suit the needs of warehouse, distribution, retail, and automotive facilities. Various models offer features designed to suit specific applications.

Class V Combustion Forklifts

Like class IV lifts, class V lifts also have a combustion engine powered by either diesel, LP gas, gasoline, or compressed natural gas. However, instead of cushioned tires, they have pneumatic tires and are most often designed specifically for outdoor operation. There are two types of pneumatic tires. Solid pneumatics are made of solid rubber and filled with air, making them more resistant to punctures. Air pneumatics are filled with air like car tires and don’t offer the same puncture resistance but are more affordable.

Class V forklifts are built with durability, uneven terrain, and heavy lifting in mind. Due to this, they’re ideal for lumberyards, construction sites, mining operations, and other outdoor areas. With lifting capacities up to 125,000 pounds, class V forklifts can cover just about any of your material handling needs at most outdoor locations.

Class VII Combustion Forklifts

Class VII forklift trucks are specifically designed for handling rough terrain that even class V lifts cannot. They offer large, tractor-style tires and are almost always powered by diesel engines. These features make them right at home in remote lumber yards, mining operations, and construction sites where tough terrain is the norm.

Do You Need an Internal Combustion Forklift?

In short, some simple rules to follow are:

  • You need a class IV forklifts with cushioned tires for indoor operations.
  • You need a class V forklift with pneumatic tires for outdoor operations.
  • You need a class VII forklift for rough terrain outdoor applications.

If you still aren’t sure whether you need an electric or IC forklift, here are a few quick considerations to make the decision easier:

Other Available Forklift Options

Internal Combustion Forklifts

  • Run on gasoline, diesel, LP gas, or natural gas, making refueling quick and easy
  • Generally used in outdoor environments, but can also be used in large, ventilated indoor facilities
  • Can lift anywhere from 3,000 to 125,000 pounds, covering a broad range of applications

Electric Forklifts

  • Lower maintenance than IC forklifts
  • Optimized for indoor spaces with a tighter turn radius
  • Produce no exhaust and operate with minimal sound
  • Require a charging station and extra batteries for long shifts
  • May require battery extraction equipment for swapping out

Still not sure what you need?

The Forklift Specialists at Brennan Can Help

At Brennan, helping businesses find the ideal forklift solution for their needs is what we do on a daily basis. We help you find lifts from top brands like Hyundai, Taylor-Dunn, and Cascade. Whether you’re interested in buying, leasing, or renting a new or used forklift, or you’re still trying to figure out which option is best for you, get in touch with our team today. Our experts provide clarity and transparency at every step of the process to meet you where you’re at and find a forklift that adds lasting value to your daily operations.

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