Forklift Faceoff: Mitsubishi Grendia FG25N versus Mitsubishi FB25CA

By: Andrew Norton, Photography by: Andrew Norton


In the battle between the gas-driven Mitsubishi Grendia FG25N versus the battery-powered Mitsubishi FB25CA, it’s all a matter of application

Forklift Faceoff: Mitsubishi Grendia FG25N versus Mitsubishi FB25CA
The Mitsubishi FB25CA (left) and the Mitsubishi Grendia FG25N (right).

 

Forklift trucks of around 2.5 tonnes are the most popular size in Australia for factory applications. They’re relatively cheap to buy and service, and compact enough to handle tight spaces between stacks.

But is a gas-powered truck the way to go or is battery-powered better?

There’s no doubt that when a truck is used for more than one shift at a time, such as 24-hour factory operation or emergencies when relief cargo has to be loaded onto trucks or transport aircraft, gas-powered is better.

It’s far quicker to change a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) bottle than lift or fork out a 900kg battery pack.

Gas trucks also have better waterproofing for use in wet conditions. But for factories and warehouses that operate just one shift a day, battery trucks are way more cost-effective and have a faster return on investment (ROI).

They’re quieter and operator fatigue is lower because of the total lack of vibration during operation — of course far safer when unloading or loading cargo in confined spaces, such as shipping containers.

Engine

Mitsubishi Grendia FG25N

This is one of the most sophisticated small gas trucks currently available.

It has the choice of carburettor or EFI and a torquey 2.1-litre 4 cylinder engine coupled with a torque converter and one forward and one reverse gear.

EFI models have the choice of high or low speed and power or soft mode settings according to whether the truck is used indoors or out.

Mitsubishi -Grendia -FG25N,Mitsubishi -FB25CA,-forklift ,-faceoff ,-review ,-ATN2

 

Mitsubishi FB25CA

Forget cantankerous and energy guzzling DC motors of the past.

This truck has an AC motor that allows for incredibly precise control of movement or raising and lowering of the forks and raking the mast.

Mitsubishi -Grendia -FG25N,Mitsubishi -FB25CA,-forklift ,-faceoff ,-review ,-ATN3 

 

Cab and Controls

Mitsubishi Grendia FG25N

The ergonomics are excellent with a suspension seat that can be dialled up to accommodate 130kg — perfect for porkers like me.

The seat is adjustable for reach and backrest rake and combined with the tilt steering column an almost perfect driving position can be had.

The rounded corners of the engine box plus a well-positioned grab handle, that easily supported my bulk, makes climbing up to the driving position a cinch.

The levers for tilt/lower, rake and side shift fall instantly to hand and the instrument panel is clearly visible even in strong sunlight.

A clear polycarbonate roof panel can be fitted for frequent outdoor usage.

Really, my only complaint is the work lights should have LED bulbs instead of incandescent units.

Mitsubishi -Grendia -FG25N,Mitsubishi -FB25CA,-forklift ,-faceoff ,-review ,-ATN5

 

Mitsubishi FB25CA

The driving position is better than the FG25N because the absence of a gas bottle allows for more seat reach and backrest rake and a shallower steering column angle, giving an almost car-like driving position.

Again the suspension seat can accommodate some real porkers.

The forward/reverse toggle switch is mounted close to the steering wheel allowing for finger-tip control with just the left-hand needed for steering and direction change.

In addition to the steering wheel-mounted horn button there’s also a horn button on the fork raise/lower lever so the right-hand can control both functions.

A multi-mode switch in the instrument panel (that displays battery charge remaining etc.) provides three speed modes, down to walking speed for inexperienced operators.

A master switch with emergency push stop function is located to the right of the instrument panel.

Due to the more angular corners of the battery pack cover, accessing the driving position is not quite as easy as the FG25N but again the grab handle easily supported my bulk when swinging myself up.

Mitsubishi -Grendia -FG25N,Mitsubishi -FB25CA,-forklift ,-faceoff ,-review ,-ATN4

 

Finances

Before I’d even arrived to test two Mitsubishi 2.5-tonners MLA Holding’s Gary Hodge had already worked out the difference in fuel and preventative maintenance costs between gas and battery over a five-year period, based on a five-hour shift per day, five days per week and 50 weeks per year.

That’s 6,250 operating hours.

When fuel, servicing and replacement costs are factored in, the totals are $11.65 an hour for gas and $1.55 or $2.35 including a new battery pack.

The slightly higher initial cost of the battery truck compared to an EFI gas unit must be allowed for but overall the differences are enormous.

There are the safety concerns, too.

Inexperienced operators may be injured when checking a hot internal combustion engine or checking the starter battery cells using a hydrometer, where removal from each cell flicks some electrolyte onto the operator.

Storing and handling the gas cylinders, at 30kg total each, requires some care.

The lead acid battery pack used in the FB25CA has single-point topping up of electrolyte using either a garden hose or distilled water injection.

The drive motor is geared directly to the differential and doesn’t need regular maintenance.

Service

Speaking of maintenance, how do the Grendia FG25N and FB25CA compare?

Mitsubishi Grendia FG25N

As expected of a Mitsubishi forklift truck, engine access is excellent.

The strong box section chassis allows for a built-in 66-litre fuel tank to the left and a hydraulic tank opposite.

The oil filter can easily be changed from above and the canister air intake draws air from the right rear guard support with provision for an additional cyclonic cleaner for dusty conditions.

The coolant overflow bottle is tucked away in a corner but easy to fill.

Sensibly, the radiator cooling fan has a removable plastic guard.

The gas cylinder is held in a swing-down cage to make replacing it less of a reach. Removing the foot panel accesses the transmission and hydraulic hoses for the mast.

Mitsubishi FB25CA

Raising the seat mount in the FB25CA accesses the battery pack which can either be forked in or out or lifted out using a jib and sling through a cutaway in the overhead guard.

Mitsubishi -Grendia -FG25N,Mitsubishi -FB25CA,-forklift ,-faceoff ,-review ,-ATN6

 

Performance

Mitsubishi Grendia FG25N

After clipping in the lap seatbelt, the demo EFI FG25N started instantly cold with a fast-idle warm-up for a couple of minutes before settling down to normal idle rpm.

Vibration levels were low for a big 4 cylinder petrol engine and although an inching pedal was fitted, the slight creep in gear meant that forward movement could be controlled using just brake pedal when sliding the forks into a pallet. This is far safer and less transmission-wear than using the inching pedal.

As with most gas trucks, there was  a significant drop in rpm when the steering wheel was turned full lock at low speeds and, of course, to increase fork lift or lower speed meant revving the engine slightly.

Vision through the mast was excellent and the side shift control meant the forks didn’t need to be perfectly aligned with the pallet before sliding them in.

Turning the steering wheel full lock failed to bog down the drive motor.

Mitsubishi -Grendia -FG25N,Mitsubishi -FB25CA,-forklift ,-faceoff ,-review ,-ATN7

 

There was a significant difference in acceleration and travelling speed using the high or low speed and power or soft settings.

Mitsubishi claims a 13 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions using the lesser settings but the real operator benefit is more precise control when handling and stacking delicate products.

Mitsubishi FB25CA

The demo FB25CA was from another planet. Absolutely no motor noise or vibration while stationary and no need to rev the engine for rapid fork raising or lowering or adjusting mast rake.

The electronic control of the hydraulics meant the fork could be raised or lowered or the mast raked by millimetres using just fingertip pressure on the respective levers.

Never before have I experienced such precise control with a forklift truck.

Only at maximum travelling speed was there a motor whine, very similar in noise and pitch to the current electric AC motor-driven trains on Sydney’s rail network.

Best of all was the ease of changing direction, achieved by switching the polarity of the drive motor. Forget having to come to a complete stop before selecting reverse as you would with a torque converter transmission.

Reversing the truck was simply a matter of taking your foot off the accelerator, selecting reverse then depressing the pedal slightly as the truck came to a stop and started reversing. Materials handling just got way faster.

Using this method meant the left hand could be used for steering and direction control and the right hand for fork and mast handling.

Frankly, it would be hard to go back to a gas truck after the FB25CA.

Mitsubishi -Grendia -FG25N,Mitsubishi -FB25CA,-forklift ,-faceoff ,-review ,-ATN8

 

Combining the motor and diff has the real benefit of bringing the forks closer to the truck body. This allows for a shorter wheelbase and tighter turning circle, though not quite as tight as an electric reach truck.

Even with the shorter wheelbase than the FG25N, stability on full mast reach with a lower pallet was no different.

Only over undulating surfaces was the ride choppier but I could live with this drawback considering the materials handling benefits.

Verdict

Both trucks are excellent for their intended applications.

The FG25N is probably the peak of development for gas trucks, whereas there’s more to do with battery trucks. Such as a drive motor per load wheel, instead of one and a diff, already available with some of Mitsubishi’s three wheel battery trucks.

Lithium ion batteries are always a possibility but these don’t like being kept fully charged and besides the weight savings aren’t really relevant in a counter-balance truck.

They’re damned expensive and require smart chargers to prevent cell damage from voltage differences resulting in possible fires.

Whichever truck you choose, both of these have brilliant ergonomics, are very user-friendly and well finished.

Mitsubishi -Grendia -FG25N,Mitsubishi -FB25CA,-forklift ,-faceoff ,-review ,-specs ,-ATN

 

 

Read the full review in June issue of ATN. Subscribe here to get your copy.

You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook