It makes sense for fleet managers to turn to electric, according to Rob Lamb, vice president of sales and marketing for Charlatte of America, which manufactures electric vehicles for the ramp. “As regulations become more stringent only electric and other green alternative energy sources protect fleet managers from replacing their vehicles every few years,” he says. “In many scenarios, electric is not only more-user friendly to the operator, it’s less costly to maintain.”
Wix agrees, “The best long-term strategy, in my point of view, is to face the situation one time and convert to electric-powered GSE where possible.”
The benefits to this approach are having a one-time cost and avoiding the labor-intensive bookkeeping associated with the regulation, he says.
Understanding the value and sometimes challenges posed by electric equipment, TUG Technologies Corp. offers a broad product line with both electric and internal combustion alternatives.
The company’s electric options include its 4th-generation electric tractor rolled out last year as well as an electric belt loader. Diesel options from TUG include a Kubota Tier III/Tier IV interim engine and Deutz Tier III engines for large push backs, and soon TUG will be offering a Deutz Tier III engine in its belt loaders and baggage tractors. Gas and LP engines are also available from TUG.
TUG vice president of sales and marketing Brad Compton agrees that electric equipment has tremendous value and often will be the best option. But he points out the infrastructure of GSE operations needs to be considered as well as the specific overall needs of an operation.
SkyWest has fewer than 50 diesel units that will fall under ORD; most are baggage tugs that have engines between 60 and 100 hp.
Steele has found that exhaust retrofit kits for those size engines are nearly the cost of a new engine. That said, he’s looking at replacing engines with new, higher tier engines and replacing diesel equipment with electric. No firm decisions have been made yet.
“I think we’ll probably end up with a mix of new engines and electric replacement,” he says.
SkyWest has been placing as much electric equipment as possible in California for years, and that has helped the airline’s fleet average, Steele says.
Before choosing a final compliance plan, White advises fleet managers to try different compliance paths using the Fleet Average Calculator (www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/ordiesel/documents/documents.htm#fleet). Unlike DOORS, where a lot of information needs to be reported, the Fleet Average Calculator just needs horsepower and model year to calculate fleet average.
The costs associated with compliance will depend on the path chosen to comply with the regulation.
“I believe that if your strategy is to stay with a diesel engine and replace or modify engines to meet the regulation, it will cost you more in the end,” Wix says. “My guess, in the end, is it will cost the industry well over $100 million to comply with this regulation in California. That includes equipment purchases/modifications and additional administrative support.”
In writing the regulation, White says, ARB realized compliance was going to be financially challenging for many fleet owners whose vehicles were going to be regulated.
“Many fleets may have to change how they allocate their capital resources,” she says. “They may need to borrow money to purchase retrofits and repowers or upgrade their vehicles. And we expect 20 to 40 percent of the fleets will need to pass on some of their compliance costs to their customers to remain profitable.”
Understanding that loans aren’t easy to get these days, ARB is piloting a new loan guarantee program in the San Joaquin Valley. If it is successful there, it may be implemented statewide.
Incentive funding — about $140 million annually — is available for medium and small fleets through the Carl Moyer Program, which pays for emission reductions that go beyond the regulatory requirements (e.g., doing more than the regulation requires or complying with requirements at least three years early). Because initial compliance dates are not until 2013 for medium fleets and 2015 for small fleets, they would be able to access funds before the compliance date. Also, because small fleets are exempt from the NOx portion of the regulation, they will always be eligible for projects that achieve NOx reductions. For GSE fleet managers going electric, White points out the Carl Moyer Program includes incentives for the purchase of electric equipment under the eligible projects category.
As the first deadline nears, operators in California are under pressure to bring their LSI fleets into compliance.
The association says the rule has placed an unexpected burden on the ground handling community in California.
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