Electric forklifts in their element
First came one test machine, then another two were added—and soon the entire 8-tonne fleet should be being powered by environmentally friendly Li-ION Technology . At leading mineral water producers Gerolsteiner, the Linde E80 offers impressive proof that electric forklift trucks have no trouble matching up to their combustion-powered equivalents.
Water is a science in itself. Before a water can be called “natural mineral water”, it has to make quite a long journey through rock layers millions of years old—not to mention the unholy depths of German statutory regulations. Here in Germany, mineral water is the only foodstuff to require official approval on the basis of investigations into its geological, hydrological, physical, chemical, microbiological and hygiene properties. But even aside from scientific analysis, etc., mineral water has a lot to offer...
Powerful 8-Tonners Are the Backbone of Logistics
Roland Keul, Logistics Manager at Gerolsteiner Brunnen GmbH & Co. KG, explains: “At peak times in the summer months, our team is shipping up to 10,000 pallets of mineral water a day. In total, we’re dispatching on average about 55,000 truckloads a year here at the source.” An impressive logistical task—and one shouldered by a no less impressive forklift fleet of nearly three dozen 8-tonners. And perhaps most impressive of all, nearly half of them are now using whisper-quiet electric motors, free from local CO2 emissions.
New Ideas for Turnaround of Goods
“We have always imposed very high quality standards on our water,” emphasizes Technology Director Ulrich Rust. “This philosophy, of course, extends to taking responsibility for nature, from which we obtain our products.” The company was therefore the first German mineral water source to commit itself to the highest goals of international climate policy and to the 1.5-degree target. Rust sums it up thus: “Gerolsteiner wants to be the driver of positive and sustainable change.” Against the backdrop of this mindset, it was logical to put the company’s own logistics under the microscope as well.
Our tests proved unequivocally that the Linde electric forklift trucks were absolutely on a par with diesel trucks in terms of performance.
Roland Keul, Logistics Manager at Gerolsteiner
Can an electric forklift truck manage that?
“High tonnages, long journeys around the warehouse, frequent lifting and lowering—how are you supposed to that without a diesel forklift? That’s how lots of people in our industry think. And in 2019, so did we,” recalls Gerolsteiner Logistics Manager Roland Keul. Those responsible took a duly skeptical approach as they checked out suppliers of electric 8-tonne counterbalanced forklift trucks. Like their diesel counterparts, these were intended for use in the loading hall and around the extensive depot. “The main job of the vehicles is to deliver goods to the bottling plant and take them away. The forklifts use 6-way handlers to transport full pallets of mineral water in boxes from the plant to the warehouse or direct to the trucks, or to supply the bottling plant with boxes of empty bottles. All of this runs in a three-shift operation practically round the clock from Sunday evening to Friday evening,” notes Keul, describing the challenging usage scenario.
Impressive Practical Performance
One of the candidates submitted to the test at Gerolsteiner in 2019 answered to the name of Linde E80. And now, a good three years on? That logo already appears on the sides of 15 of the vehicles that hum their way around the warehouse and through the loading hall at Gerolsteiner. Trend: increasing. What has happened in the meantime? Logistics Manager Keul knows the story well: “After the first three months of testing with the Linde E80, I asked the driver who was piloting the truck in the empties processing area how satisfied he was now. All he said was: ‘What do I have to do to be allowed to keep this forklift?’ You can imagine my reaction—especially as we had honestly never expected such acceptance on part of the operators.”
Li-ION Batteries Have Many Benefits
The managers therefore continued to pursue the electric forklift truck project with real commitment. Working with their Linde MH network partner, Jungbluth Fördertechnik they ordered two further Linde test machines and carried out performance tests under realistic conditions. “These proved unequivocally that the Linde electric forklift trucks were absolutely on a par with diesel trucks in terms of performance. For us, therefore, the situation was crystal clear.” This applied equally to the question “lead acid or lithium ion?” Says Keul: “With a fleet of our size and nonstop operation, we’d have needed nearly three lead acid batteries per forklift—meaning the batteries would pretty much need their own charging hall. Another factor would have been the relatively high maintenance required. For that reason, the decision in favor of Li-ION batteries from Linde Material Handling was unanimous.”
It Works Financially Too
The diesel fleet has become a cleaner Li-ION fleet, refueling has been replaced by easy interim charging during the breaks—and the noise-polluted loading hall has become a pleasant workplace in which it’s easy to hear yourself think. The results so far of the electric forklift truck project at Gerolsteiner are there to be seen (and heard). This is to do firstly with the environmental benefits of electrically powered forklift trucks. If sustainably produced primary energy (green electricity) is used, as at Gerolsteiner, they can be powered with no CO2 emissions at all. Secondly, there is a highly positive financial effect for the mineral water company as well. According to Technology Director Ulrich Rust, “With the enormous rises in the price of diesel fuel, as of September 2022 our vehicle operating costs are appreciably lower than with the previous combustion engines. To start with, our accounts department was assuming amortization over three years but now we’re already looking at just one year. It speaks for itself.”
The Conversion Plan Still Stands
Truck Operator Ralf Falkenberg speaks on behalf of the operators in Gerolsteiner Logistics as he describes his experiences: “Working with them, the trucks are just as powerful, just as robust, just as great to operate. But you can drive more precisely, with fewer breakages for example. At the end of the shift I feel significantly more relaxed because the Linde E80 is very quiet with hardly any vibrations. I no longer actually want to drive anything else.” It is a wish that will soon be fulfilled for the Logistics team: by the end of 2024, according to the plan, the company and Jungbluth Fördertechnik will have converted the entire fleet of 8-tonners to Linde E80s. “For our people, there has been no problem switching, the forklifts have been running with no problem right from the beginning, there are no problems with loading, the CO2 and cost outcomes are first class—it just works,” says visibly satisfied Logistics Manager Roland Keul. Sometimes, dealing with mineral water—or rather, the logistics involved—does not need to be scientific...
Noise emissions from electric forklift trucks are markedly lower than from diesel models. That feels good on the ears.
Ralf Falkenberg, Truck Operator at Gerolsteiner
Gerolsteiner Brunnen GmbH & Co. KG
With an output of 7.5 million hectoliters (2021), Gerolsteiner is Germany’s no. 1 mineral water brand. The company headquarters and source site are in the town of the same name in the western Volcanic Eifel region of Germany. For its local logistics the company, which currently employs some 860 staff, has long depended on technology from Linde Material Handling. The company has, for example, been using the Linde E80 with lithium-ion batteries since 2019 for deliveries to and from the bottling plant and for transporting empty bottles. By the end of 2024 Gerolsteiner plans to have switched its entire fleet of 8-tonne forklifts—a total of 35 trucks—from diesel to electric operation. The trucks have 6-way pallet handlers and, where safety is concerned, are fitted with the trusted Linde BlueSpot™ .