PERC Reviews CARB Ban on Internal Combustion Engine Forklifts

CARB’s proposed mandate would ban propane-powered forklifts. Photo: THEPALMER/E+/Getty Images

The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) has released an analysis that debates the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) proposed ban on internal combustion engine (ICE) forklifts.

The CARB mandate would ban all internal combustion engine forklifts, including hybrid electric solutions, allowing only battery and hydrogen fuel cell powered forklifts.

According to PERC, efforts began with California Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-79-20, signed in September 2020. CARB proposed its draft regulatory concept in August 2021.

PERC Analysis – “Fork(lifts) in the (Off) Road: Should We Ban Internal Combustion Engines for Electric?” – compares the lifecycle emissions profiles of propane and electric forklifts, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

Proposed CARB ban on forklifts

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Analysis shows that conventional propane engines are superior to electric forklifts in several states. The case for internal combustion engine forklifts becomes even stronger with hybrids and renewable fuels, and nearly all propane-powered internal combustion forklift technologies emit extremely low pollutant criteria by regulatory standards.

According to PERC, the analysis was performed using available certification emissions data from the Environmental Protection Agency comparing lifecycle CO2 and NOx emissions between propane-powered forklifts and electric.

“Electrification is often touted as the only solution to full decarbonization, but people too often forget how electricity is generated, stored, transmitted and consumed,” says Gokul Vishwanathan, report author and director of research and PERC durability. “A single energy mandate is neither sufficient nor realistic, and the truth is that propane and renewable propane can lead to an immediate decarbonization of this sector.

PERC Forklift Analysis

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PERC urges regulators to conduct detailed emissions lifecycle analyzes before considering banning specific technologies. Council says abrupt shift to zero-exhaust forklifts would be a missed opportunity to accelerate decarbonisation using low-carbon fuels, renewables and renewable/low-carbon blends .

“It would be safe to say that California’s goal is unique: to force widespread adoption of electric forklifts to eliminate all internal combustion variants,” says Jeremy Wishart, director of technical communications at PERC.

The analysis concludes that the co-optimization of engines and fuels is key to achieving decarbonization. The development of high-efficiency engines, renewable propane, and blends of propane and renewable dimethyl ether also offer solutions.

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