Post July 3, 2011 - The Perfect Electric Vehicle

At St. Michaels Winery, we have been using an electric vehicle for over three years. It is our Hyster electric forklift. Electric forklifts have been around for many years. This is an ideal application for electric power. First, the huge bank of extremely heavy flooded lead acid batteries is an advantage. Forklifts must have heavy weight that serves to counter balance what the forklift is rated to pick up. So, a big bank of heavy batteries is perfect.

Forklifts are not for driving around town, in general they are used at one location, one warehouse or in our case one winery. So by definition the forklift is never far from its charger. Funny, when I purchased our used forklift for the winery the sales person said that it came with a charger. And, my experience with battery chargers are little 12 volt car chargers, so that is what I had in mind. So I was taken aback when the forklift arrived with this HUGE three phase orange charger that you literally need to forklift to move.

Another advantage to being electric powered is that they are clean safe and quiet. At a neighboring winery, one of the workers had to be hospitalized with near deadly levels of CO2 in his blood stream from operating a propane forklift indoors for several hours.

For the first couple years we used this old (circa 1950s) propane forklift. It still works, but it is a workout to use. Manual steering, manual shift.

The new(er) electric forklift is bad ass, with power steering and automatic transmission, side shifting and rotating head, and, another advantage, all that torque from 0 RPM. We have a warehouse a couple miles from our in town winery location. On bottling days we need to load palettes of finished wine on our truck and run them over to the warehouse. Now, palettes of wine are heavy piles of liquid and glass about 2400lbs a piece. We like to put multiple palettes on the truck to get them out of the way and to reduce the number of trips to the warehouse. So, with the electric forklift you can put one palette on the rear of the truck, pick up a second palette – line it up with first palette, and simply push down the accelerator with your pinky toe and the forklift, effortlessly and quietly slides that first palette right out of the way. Yes, slides 2400lbs of dead weight across the floor, no problem. But wait, you can then pick up a third palette, line it up with the first two – we are talking nearly 5000lbs of dead weight, and sure enough a pinky toe tap latter and there are three palettes on the truck. We do this side by side, so a total of 6 palettes on the truck, at this point we have exceeded the trucks weight limit, but hey, we are only going a couple miles on a country road and we are guys after all.