“It’s basically doing two things: We are helping to improve the air quality in Mecklenburg County and improving the economy and reliability of our belt loader fleet” says Greg Nist, GSE fleet manager at US Airways. “We are being reimbursed for a portion of the cost of repower on each unit. We are installing an engine kit from Hercules and repairing the chassis and systems at our CLT GSE Facility. As part of the grant requirements, we must destroy the old engine and submit documentation back to the county.”
US Airways is also looking to have portions of its existing belt loader fleet converted from diesel to electric by Hercules. “They’ve done a prototype for us, and we’re waiting to see where we are going to go with this project at this point,” Nist says.
For both conversions, the carrier expects to get around 10 more years in the life of the unit. The savings associated with updating the belt loaders are worth the effort, according to Nist. “For zero-time rebuilds, the units that are closer to half the cost of a new vehicle are obviously a good investment on the airline’s part,” he says. “There are some units that are a little more expensive to rebuild, such as tugs, which generally run a little higher than half the cost, but rebuilt belt loaders are running about half the cost of a new belt loader.”
Nist says the company’s future decisions to buy new or rebuild will likely depend upon funding that can be obtained to help subsidize the cost. “Some of the grant programs require you to buy new vehicles, some will require or allow you to rebuild older vehicles and modify them to current technology,” he says. “We will rebuild equipment if it is acceptable and provides us a substantial reduction in cost over new.”
Overall, the US Airways GSE fleet will largely be looking to go electric, partly because it presents the best opportunity for funding. “Our focus is going to be on improving our electrical fleet, and growing our electric fleet, replacing old diesel equipment and gas-powered equipment with electric equipment,” he says.