Story | 06/21/2023 08:39:31 | 3 min Read time

Electric forklifts reduce CO2 emissions in WISA plywood production

Replacing diesel-powered forklifts with electric forklifts at the mills is a concrete example of UPM Plywood's determined climate action. The introduction of electric forklifts has been a positive surprise in terms of both the smoothness of charging and the economic and environmental effects.

UPM Plywood is committed to reducing the company’s CO2 emissions by 65% by 2030. In addition to minimizing fossil energy use in production, improvements are also sought in other areas of operations. 

As part of its climate work, UPM Plywood has begun replacing the diesel-powered forklifts used at its mills with electric ones. The equipment ordered a year ago has been in operation for a few months, with four rechargeable forklifts at UPM Pellos and two at UPM Savonlinna. The forklifts are used in plywood production to move veneers and finished plywood. According to Procurement Manager Matti Heinonen, the experience so far has been a positive surprise. 

The battery-powered forklifts are ideally suited to seven-day, three-shift operation, and the energy savings have exceeded calculated expectations based on more than three months of operating data. In addition to the environmental benefits, the change has been very cost-effective," Heinonen says. 

Despite the more expensive purchase price, the savings from electric forklifts have been significant, both because of the current energy prices and the lower maintenance costs compared to diesel trucks. Rechargeable forklifts are also estimated to have a longer lifetime. Over a five-year lifetime, the total cost of ownership is only 50% compared to a diesel-powered forklift. 

Improved working enviroment

In addition, electric forklifts improve the working environment due to their silence and absence of exhaust gases. Breathing air is improved, and the fire load is reduced because electric trucks do not have a radiator to raise dust into the air and onto the upper floors of the premises. 

The energy efficiency of rechargeable trucks is unparalleled, although diesel trucks have had automatic engine shutdown systems since 2017-2018 to reduce idling.  

"An electric forklift uses energy only when it is moving or lifting. Otherwise, it's idle, so it doesn't use energy."  

By calculation, replacing one diesel forklift truck with an electric forklift will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an average of 40 tonnes per year per forklift truck at the Savonlinna plant.  

"This calculation still includes the CO2 emissions from electricity. The emission reduction will be even greater when we can switch from purchased electricity to emission-free electricity by 2024," Heinonen adds. 

UPM Plywood's goal is to gradually replace its entire forklift fleet with electric vehicles as they reach the end of their natural lifespan, with the aim of reducing emissions from forklifts. To combat climate change, it is important to approach this transition systematically, and all measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are considered valuable in UPM Plywood's carbon roadmap. 

This article is part of our new Plywood Beyond Fossils series. The series presents concrete measures UPM Plywood is taking to help mitigate climate change. Read more on our Responsibility Made Easy website. 

Text: Anu Ritvanen