New Technology for Old Machinery — How Forklifts Are Being Adapted for the 21st Century

Worker on forklift
For decades, the forklifts responsible for lifting and transporting materials in warehouses everywhere have run on technology that is both harmful to people and the environment — and anything but energy-efficient.

That’s finally starting to change, thanks to the help of innovators like Lester Erlston, who has applied new technologies to the tried-and-true forklift in order to boost these trucks’ efficiency and range.

According to a December 20 Upstart Business Journal article, Erlston, CEO and founder of KersTech Vehicle Systems, has been developing a dual hydraulic-electric motor that can be used in machinery like garbage trucks, city buses and especially forklifts — vehicles that all make frequent stops. This motor harnesses the braking power from these frequent stops and regenerates this power for continued use.

Currently, the typical electric-powered forklift engine used by about 60% of warehouses around the world has an average run time of just five hours. KersTech’s “TwinTorq” motor has the potential to bring this run time up to eight hours, the length of an average workday and a 35% to 40% increase. The hydraulic-electric motor concept also has a greater torque, meaning the gasoline- and propane-powered forklifts that are needed to move heavy items up ramps would no longer be necessary, the Upstart Business Journal reports.

However, the safety of these new motors for the personnel who operate forklifts on an everyday basis is still unclear. Currently, about one in four transport-related accidents in the workplace involve the use of a forklift, making these trucks some of the most dangerous pieces of equipment in any workplace.

The prototypes for KersTech’s hydraulic-electric motors are currently being put together, with trial runs with forklifts to be made this fall. If the trials are successful, the combined motor will be installed in a three-ton Hyster forklift for a real-world application and test run.

With one of the biggest forklift companies in the world on board, KersTech’s hydraulic-electric motor has the potential to become one of the most widespread ways to power a forklift. And because it boasts greater run time and torque range, there will be few reasons not to make the switch to this new technology.

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