Electric forklifts are superior to combustion-powered trucks in many ways, but while they offer excellent performance with lower fuel costs, full-scale fleet conversion is often a tall order. Electric lift trucks can be expensive, and some businesses stick with gas-powered trucks — despite the clear drawbacks of combustion technologies — to avoid the capital costs of a brand-new fleet.
Government tax incentives can help some industrial businesses reduce the costs of electric forklifts, since electrical power is an eco-friendly alternative to gasoline and diesel. The bad news is that programs are often handled at the state level, and finding credits can be difficult if you don’t know where to start.
However, if you’re considering lift truck fleet conversion, it’s worth your time to do some quick research. Here are a few tips for finding every available incentive to reduce the costs of your new energy-efficient lift trucks, along with any changes you’ll need to make to your operation’s infrastructure.
Researching Government Programs for Your Forklift Fleet
Start by visiting the Alternative Fuels Data Center, a website sponsored by the United States Department of Energy (afdc.energy.gov). The site allows users to search for federal and state laws that relate to alternative fuels, including electric power.
Currently, most programs are handled at the state level. After researching your state’s incentives, be sure to look at incentives in neighboring states; while it’s something of a long shot, interstate arrangements might allow you to take advantage of rebate programs, provided that you do business in those other areas. You can also use the AFDC website to check up on state environmental laws and to calculate the benefits of different types of fuel.
It’s also worth noting that the location of the equipment vendor is often a qualification factor, so carefully read rebate program requirements before applying for rebates, credits, and other incentives.
Do Forklifts Qualify as Alternative Fuel Vehicles?
In some states, electric forklifts fulfill the requirements for classification as an Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV), but the wording of the laws can make this tricky. For example, Illinois provided a rebate for some heavy-duty equipment through its Illinois Green Fleets program, but the Illinois EPA avoided providing funding for some types of forklifts, noting that alternative fuels could be seen as the “conventional fuels” for some applications (that program has recently been suspended).
If you’re applying for a rebate, you may be able to make a stronger case if you can show that you’re replacing combustion forklifts — especially gasoline and diesel trucks — with electric power. When filling out your application, be sure to make a note if you’re converting away from a high-emission fuel source to improve your chances of serious consideration. Remember, rebate applications are processed by real people, so include some numbers and try to make a compelling argument.
Tax Credits May Also Apply for Battery Rooms and Infrastructure
Some states also have purchasing incentives for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Battery rooms typically fulfill the infrastructure requirements, although they’ll usually need to be inspected and certified before rebates are provided.
You could make a case for any piece of equipment that reduces your energy consumption, so think about every individual element of your battery room. Do an exhaustive audit of everything from the chargers to the light fixtures — LED lighting fixtures can mean hefty rebates in Maryland and other states.
Finally, if you can’t find incentives at the state or federal level, remember to check with your energy supplier. Many companies have offered incentives for energy efficient businesses. As we’ve discussed in earlier blog entries, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) currently offers a substantial discount for companies that convert away from combustion-powered forklifts.
Most private electrical & gas companies have some sort of energy efficiency incentive program, often provided through partnerships with the United States Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The best way to find these programs and whether they apply to forklift fleets is to call your supplier directly.
Be sure to ask about potential fleet upgrades, battery room infrastructure, and any other improvements that could affect your power consumption. By taking advantage of a few rebates and tax incentives, you can significantly reduce the capital costs of electric forklifts — and start enjoying the benefits of fewer maintenance requirements, lower fuel costs, and enhanced productivity.
“CMAP Project Application.” Illinois EPA. Web. 24 June 2015.
“Allegheny Power – Commercial and Industrial Energy Efficiency Rebate Program.” Allegheny Power. Web. 24 June 2015.
“State and Utility Engagement Activities.” Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Web. 24 June 2015.
“Alternative Fuels Data Center Home Page.” Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Web. 24 June 2015.