The year is 1971: John Lennon releases the anthem Imagine and Ray Tomlinson sends the world’s first e-mail. In the same year, Linde presents its first electrically driven forklift truck, the E10 – E15, at the Hanover Fair. Imagine becomes an immortal hit and e-mail the number one communication medium. And Linde's electric forklifts also have a stellar career. Originally conceived merely as an exhaust-free alternative to the IC truck for indoor use, the electric forklift soon becomes an important component of modern intralogistics and Linde Material Handling the market leader in this segment.
Electric forklift trucks: step by step to perfection
After 1971, the once niche electric forklift truck begins to rapidly gain in importance. The main reason for this is the growing number of large warehouses and logistics centers. The steadily increasing turnover of goods at these new hubs calls for better forklift trucks for indoor use that are both extremely maneuverable and can be operated with precision. At the same time, technical innovations help to narrow the performance gap to conventional IC trucks bit by bit. In terms of payload, lifting speed, and handling performance, the e-models come ever closer to their IC engine counterparts.
From the very beginning, Linde's aim in developing the modern electric forklift truck has been to keep perfecting the vehicles. The first step in this process primarily means optimizing them for indoor use thanks to increasing precision and maneuverability. For this reason, the first models come equipped with a two-motor front-wheel drive system, in which two electric motors are installed on the drive axle. These motors enable the forklift trucks to turn exactly in the middle of the drive axle. At the beginning of the 1980s, the Aschaffenburg-based company also introduced power electronics, which enable electric motors to be controlled with much greater precision.
In 1994, the first four-wheeled Linde electric forklift trucks come equipped with the innovative combi-steering axle. This enables the forklift trucks to turn on the spot and within the truck contours. Just one year later, Linde Load Control is launched, enabling sensitive operation of the lift mast functions via joystick—a feature that quickly establishes itself as the industry standard. In 1999, Linde adds the first model with a three-phase or asynchronous motor to its product portfolio. For this new drive, the engineers developed custom power and control modules that combine the advantages of higher performance with increased reliability and demanding outdoor applications. Small and maintenance-free, the two traction motors together with the lifting hydraulic system and all control parts can be combined into one component—the compact drive axle.
In 2002, another milestone was the switch to three-phase AC motors, which put Linde electric forklift trucks on a par with IC trucks in many performance areas.
1971: the starting shot
The E10 – E15 is the first Linde electric forklift truck to hit the market. Its most prominent features: dual-motor front-wheel drive, dual-pedal control, and central control lever. In addition, the E10 – E15 already automatically reduces speed when cornering, which today is the outright industry standard.
1982: maximum comfort
Linde constantly improves the comfort of its electric forklift trucks. For the first time, the E12 – E18 offers an ergonomically optimized driver's workplace, where the seat and steering column can be perfectly adjusted to the driver.
1994: optimum maneuverability
With the E20 – E30, Linde introduces two pioneering innovations at once: The new combi-steering axle also allows 4-wheel forklift trucks to turn on the spot, which significantly improves truck maneuverability. At the same time, the new tilt cabin simplifies access to important truck parts, in particular the battery.
1995: full control
From the E14 – E20 series onwards, the Linde Load Control enables electric control of the lift mast functions via a joystick. Thanks to its sensitive operation, the new technology quickly becomes the industry standard and is soon introduced on Linde's IC trucks as well.
Electric innovations: energy on board
In the new millennium, Linde rises to become the market leader in Europe for electric forklift trucks with the E20 – E50 series and continues to drive forward the technological development of its E-models. As early as 2000, the classic lead-acid battery could be replaced by a hydrogen fuel cell, which is now offered as a series option for all Linde electric forklift trucks.
In 2006, Linde went one step further and presented the next E-sensation with an onboard charger and the compact drive axle. The forklift truck now only needs to be connected to the appropriate socket via a charging cable to charge. The charging power is automatically adapted to the respective battery type.
The onboard charger from Linde is a world first. In addition, Linde makes a name for itself with lithium-ion drives and impresses with the best safety concept and optimum integration of vehicle and LI-ION battery in this innovative technology.
With the 2 to 5 metric ton models, Linde introduces additional features to the market in 2010: the vibration-decoupled drive axle, the automatically engaging handbrake, the digital battery charge indicator, and a traction control system for best ground grip for example.
2006: world’s first onboard charger
2015: the powerhouse
2016: a clear view ahead
With the E20 – E35 R roadster models, Linde launches the first completely visibility-optimized electric forklifts on the market. Thanks to the overhead tilt cylinders, the vehicles can dispense with the A-pillar. This design gives the driver an unobstructed view of the travel path and maximizes safety in everyday work.
2017: the lithium-ion revolution
2017: E12 – E20 is the world champion
Linde makes E technology like no-one else
Linde also demonstrates its E-expertise in other areas: The E1 electric kart, developed on the basis of original E20 - E50 components, sets the acceleration world record for electrically powered karts in 2011—going from 0 to 100 km/h in just 3.45 seconds and driving straight into the Guinness Book of Records.
The future is electric
Nowadays, there’s no resisting the electric forklift truck. Increasing cost pressures, tight timelines, and order peaks that are difficult to estimate make its permanent availability and flexible deployment indispensable. In addition, there is an urgent need for exhaust-free drive systems that enable sustainability-oriented intralogistics against the backdrop of the global climate crisis.
In terms of economy, safety, and ecological responsibility, electric forklift trucks have long been the benchmark for the material flow of the future. Thanks to permanently increasing performance and innovative energy systems such as lithium-ion technology, they are increasingly capable of replacing internal combustion engine forklift trucks.
Linde already provided impressive proof of this in 2015 when it launched the E60 – E80, a powerful electric forklift truck for payload ranges of up to 8 metric tons.
Today, Linde Material Handling can look back on a long and successful electric forklift truck history. As market and innovation leaders, the E-experts from Aschaffenburg have set out not only to serve this market comprehensively, but also to continue revolutionizing it. In mid-2021, Linde Material Handling will therefore introduce a new generation of electric forklift trucks. Like their predecessors, they will once again set the standards in the industry—in ergonomics, efficiency, safety, and connectivity.