Cargo/Baggage Handling Equipment: Batteries Evolve for Electric GSE

Many options are available today to power equipment on the ramp, and new technology is just around the corner.

Battery data module: This is a device that monitors and stores all the activity related to the battery, such as temperature, state of charge, number of charge cycles, power throughput, and time of charge and discharge. They’re typically a part of any fast-charging system, but a powerful tool on their own. They’re invaluable for diagnosing problems and managing the fleet, and ultimately improving performance, improving battery life and saving money.

The Future of GSE Battery Technology

For all the advantages of lead-acid, there are some significant drawbacks. Lead-acid batteries are full of hazardous material, require frequent maintenance, and can take a long time to recharge. For these reasons, there’s a good chance a new technology is going to finally replace the old. There are more possibilities that can be noted here, but below are some good prospects.

The first prospect is an upgraded version of lead-acid battery called thin plate pure lead (tppl), which is exactly what it sounds like. The plates are so thin they behave like spaghetti during the manufacturing process. Its main benefits are power density and ultra-fast recharge time, and that it’s maintenance free. This could be the transitional step away from lead-acid, particularly for GSE since the industry has already adopted fast-charge technology. Tppl, which may be familiar, is found in the Odyssey brand battery.

The second prospect is the Lithium-Ion battery, which has already become the dominant technology for cell phone, laptops and on-road electric vehicles. Its main benefits are power density, light weight, and that it’s also maintenance free. The benefits to GSE may never outweigh the cost, but with so many new Li-ion manufacturing plants ramping up for electric cars, one never can tell.

The big story in electric vehicle technology is fuel cells. A fuel cell uses a gas, such as hydrogen, as a kind of fuel to create electricity. The only emission from a hydrogen fuel cell is water and there is no “recharge” necessary. A user will still have to “fill up” the tank when it’s empty, but that should only take a few minutes. Of course, an operator would have to find a hydrogen-fuel station, but that’s another issue. There are many competing technologies within fuel cells. Hydrogen is clearly the most popular, but pay attention to methanol fuels cells as well — they may be a faster path to widespread adoption.

All of these new technologies will be viable. In fact, they are all powering vehicles today. And in all probability, the price will eventually drop enough to compete with today’s lead-acid battery. The question is: Which one will be the dominant technology for GSE?

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