The units’ popularity among drivers has meant greater hours of use — which has been good news for the airline, as well as the county. “One of the requirements of the Mecklenburg County grant is basically bi-annually we report the number of hours we’ve used on the equipment,” Wemple says. “The funding amount they provide is somehow related back to the emissions you’re proposing to reduce. They want to ensure that we are performing to what we had originally proposed.
“We’re very happy to say that we’re actually exceeding what we had originally expected in terms of hours usage on the vehicles, which is good all around, because the more we use the electric vehicles, the more it benefits us from a cost perspective. Obviously, the more we use the electric vehicles the better it is for the environment and the county as well,” he says.
The overall run-time of the units has translated to a 28-percent reduction in fuel cost, according to Maslow.
The carrier has also benefitted from a reduction in maintenance needs. The units require less support than some other types of equipment, according to Maslow. “They require some maintenance; we do have to pull them in just like everything else, but there are no oil changes,” he says. “It’s quite simple by comparison. The maintenance is way down.”
He continues, “There are also benefits that you don’t even recognize when you’re in our position of sourcing the equipment: They’re easier to get in and out of. They’re lower, so you’re not climbing up. They’re quiet, and you never have to worry about starting.”
On the horizon
The carrier does not plan to slow down with its electric ambitions. Maslow says they are now testing electric towbarless pushbacks in CLT – with a goal of implementing them into service in 2011.
Piedmont Airlines is also looking outside CLT to its operation in Philadelphia, where the airport recently finished installing 23 chargers.
The airline has received funding from the state to replace equipment with electric, which it has planned to acquire in the coming months.
“In the state of Pennsylvania, we’ve been awarded the opportunity to use up about $300,000-400,000 dollars of grant funding total,” Wemple says. “We’ll be looking to utilize available grant funding that’s been awarded to the company to help offset the purchase of somewhere between 30 to 40 pieces of electric ground equipment this year — close to a 50/50 mix of baggage tractors and belt loaders.”