However, some companies insist tugs are another good option. Hercules Engine Components has completed a tug conversion. Dienes concedes that the unit may not be ideal for all operations. “It is more difficult to do the conversion, because it’s tougher to arrange the batteries,” he says. “And because of that you’re limited on the amount of amp hours you can get out of the series of batteries.”
However, the company has found that smaller airports are an ideal fit for its units. “They may only do five or six flights a day, and that tractor is perfect for that application,” he says.
Another company, A&V Rebuilding, recently debuted a tug that it converted using lithium-battery technology, which the company states is superior to a standard lead-acid battery — performing up to three times as long on each charge, as as well as having a life expectancy of up to 12 years or more. (See L-Tug sidebar)
Wayne Alexander of Electric Blue Auto Conversions — which also offers repowering services for GSE — offers a more liberal view. “Just about any piece of equipment is ideal for conversion,” he says, explaining that while there may be drawbacks associated with some unit types, technology will quickly catch up to address any operational issues.
The true test of candidates for conversion, which nearly everyone agrees upon, is whether or not the infrastructure will support a unit at its location.
More Traction for Conversion?
Conversions from IC units to electric have been a largely sporadic undertaking throughout the industry. It has long been an option, but it has not widely taken hold, though some companies say that could be changing.
Brad Compton of Tug notes that the company has seen more interest in conversions. “I think when they look at converting a current asset, it is more economical. And then you look at all the incentives to go electric, it’s going to happen,” he says.
Compton points to emissions regulations as one factor that could push the industry more toward electric in general — not only conversions, but new builds as well.
That sentiment is shared by Emerson at FMI. “I think that we’re seeing much more conversation about it because of the changes that are coming with the emissions,” he says. “I think that the airlines and the service companies are desperately trying to figure out what direction to go here for the long run with the new rules.”
JBT also agrees. “Interest levels have been very high,” Koger says. “We’re fielding questions on a regular basis. You’re going to see the percentage of electric vehicles, as conversion or new production, continue to grow as money starts becoming available. With the introduction on the Tier 4 engines, customers are looking at the higher cost of Tier 4 and the maintenance involved. They are giving it more of a look to go electric.”