Tips and Insights for Renting an Electric Scissor Lift

JLG Davinci electric scissor lift

When it comes to compact equipment, scissor lifts have been one of the most popular categories for electrification for decades now. Battery-powered scissors can offer emissions-free operation in all types of aerial applications — from constructing commercial buildings to simple facility maintenance. There are plenty of options. OEM offerings today give you working heights that range from 14 ft to as high as 123 ft. The larger electric scissor lift platforms hold up to 1,700 lbs. To get through narrow gateways or doors, you can find models as narrow as 30 in. Electric scissor lifts also provide the benefit of emissions-free operation and quiet operation — perfect for indoor work and occupied buildings. Spill trays can capture any inadvertent leaks of hydraulic fluid — another environmental plus — and non-marking tires enable you to work on finished flooring without leaving a trace.

It’s not just indoor applications either. If you have to work outdoors, indoor/outdoor rated models and rough terrain (RT) scissor lifts are available and can include all-wheel drive, oscillating axles and significant gradeability specs — in some cases up to 40 percent. Traditional RT scissor lifts have been powered by diesel, gas or propane engines, but in the last few years OEMs have developed a growing number of models that give you rough terrain capability while using an electric power source, says Malcolm Early, Skyjack’s vice president of marketing. Other than performance, the most important distinction between indoor and outdoor-capable scissor lifts is the wind rating, says Early. Most RT models are rated for use in winds up to 26.8 miles per hour (12.5 meters per second). Indoor electric scissor lifts generally do not carry wind ratings. These “slab”-type indoor scissor lifts also have limited ability to work on unimproved surfaces like gravel.

Money Maker

Sunbelt Rentals electric scissor lift

Electric scissor lifts can be a safe and cost-effective way to work at height. “Electric scissor lifts can do everything their gas and diesel counterparts do but with the added benefit of being more efficient, much quieter and longer lasting,” says Austin Caskey, product line manager at Sunbelt Rentals.

“If you are looking to buy an electric scissor lift, consider the total cost of ownership and not just the initial purchase price,” says Christian Dube, senior global product manager at Genie. By investing in a quality machine, you will spend less time on maintenance, save money over the life of the machine and enjoy more uptime. Total cost of ownership also includes residual value such as how much you can sell the machine for when it’s reached the end of its life in your fleet, says Dube. By selecting a brand with a high residual value, you can maximize the total value you get from your fleet.

Battery Evolution

“The majority of electric scissor lifts use flooded lead acid [FLA] batteries,” says Early, but many OEMs offer AGM (absorbed glass mat) battery options. Lithium-ion batteries are starting to make inroads in this market as well. AGM batteries last longer and provide more starting power than FLA batteries. The fiberglass mats inside these batteries hold more electrolyte in contact with the lead plates. This produces more amperage for lights and other ancillary functions and reduces the risk of spillage. AGM batteries are standard in about half the cars and trucks sold today because of this ability to power accessories when the engine is off.

If you’re looking for state-of-the-art power and functionality, lithium-ion batteries have several advantages, says Caskey. They require less maintenance, last longer and provide more efficiencies and capabilities thanks to digital battery management systems, he says. In testing, Genie found its lithium-ion batteries lasted about 10 years and reduced maintenance costs by 11 percent compared to FLA batteries.

“For rough-terrain electric scissor lifts, you’re likely to see more lithium-ion batteries being offered as the cost to implement the technology comes down and the cost-of-ownership benefits start to outweigh the additional cost of the battery,” says Dube.

Lithium-ion batteries also offer faster charge times, typically four hours, which is 33 percent faster than FLA batteries, says Dube. “They can also take partial or intermittent charges without damaging the battery. This is a huge benefit when your lift is needed for back-to-back shifts or if the lift was not plugged in at the end of the prior day,” he says.

Rental Dominance

Skyjack SJ6832 RT electric scissor lift

“When we look at the scissor lift market, it’s dominated by the electric models,” says Josh Nickell, vice president, equipment segments, American Rental Association. “Mini excavators, skid steers [+ track loaders] and electric scissor lifts are maybe the top three rental items for commercial contractors. When they’re doing indoor work, most contractors don’t want a combustion engine,” he says. Rental penetration for all types of equipment on jobsites is about 56 percent, but for aerial equipment, including forklifts, boom lifts and scissor lifts, the penetration is more like 70 to 80 percent and growing, says Nickell.

Selection Criteria

Before you head out to your rental store or equipment dealer for an electric scissor lift, be sure you compile a checklist of your requirements. According to JLG this would include:

  • How high do you need to work?
  • How much weight and how many operators do you want to put in the platform?
  • Will the machine fit through any doorways you encounter?
  • Will you be doing indoor and outdoor work?
  • What is the maximum weight the floor under the lift can support?
  • Are there specific tools or accessories you need on the platform?
  • How long will your work shifts be, and will the batteries be able to meet that need?
  • Does your lift need leak containment provisions?

Tom Jackson is a freelance writer for Compact Equipment. He has been writing about construction equipment for more than 20 years and now edits an online column, Heavy Equipment Insights, on construction technology and sustainability at

Tools and Accessories for Scissor Lifts

Genie GS 1932 electric scissor lift

Assuming you’re going to be working with more than just a bucket of paint and a brush, you’ll want to check out all the additional features, accessories and tools that can go up with you in the basket of an electric scissor lift. Some of the more popular items include:

  • Basket electrical plugs
  • Pipe and lumber racks
  • Tool caddies
  • Fork pockets
  • Easy access gates
  • Fluorescent light tube carriers
  • Boom pipe racks
  • Glazier kits
  • Quick access rails

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