- Maintenance, repairs and equipment downtime are minimized, because AC motor technology is more efficient and produces less wear and tear. There is less heat and vibration generated in comparison to IC systems, and fewer moveable parts. Since electric motors do not “idle,” the hours on the hour meter are lower. They only reflect the actual work the vehicle did. Many diesel GSE spend a lot of time idling while staff load bags. In cold weather they are often left to idle for extended periods. Maintenance is based on hour meter readings.
- The ease of diagnostics is exceptional. Any maintenance issues are immediately flagged; there is no need to dismantle equipment and search manually for the source of a problem.
- The overall cost of operating an electric fleet is lower than IC. A recent study in Industrial & Utility Vehicle (IUV) Magazine of comparable industrial equipment utilized in similar circumstances to airport conditions demonstrated a break-even point of just 2 ¼ years. At that point, the switch to electric technology not only paid for itself, but began to generate positive cash flow versus projected fuel costs. This payback period varies depending on fuel prices, lead prices of batteries, whether rapid chargers are required, and the cost of electricity.
Cost of EV vs IC
A study by Jeff Bowles published in IUV Sept/Oct 2008 of industrial trucks in similar operating environments to GSE, demonstrates the cost advantages of EVs. Total initial investments for EV trucks may be higher than IC, but the long-term costs for EVs are lower. Total yearly hourly operating costs per truck, per hour, were calculated to be significantly less, at $1.48 for EVs, compared to $4.93 for IC powered vehicles.
The zero emissions aspect of electrification creates measurable indoor air quality improvements. IC engines produce carbon monoxide (CO), which can accumulate in indoor areas and can cause serious health problems, including death. While it is too early to quantify the savings in productivity and paid employee sick days, it is safe to assume this is another area of significant cost reduction with important human resources ramifications.
Operators will experience these advantages while achieving equal or better performance from their electric equipment. Of course, there is the consideration of the reduction of fossil fuel consumption for global environmental benefits.
Coordinating the Effort
Careful planning is needed to meet the very different requirements of an electric fleet. The airport facilities need to plan for new infrastructure requirements, such as power lines for charging stations, traffic routing to and from chargers, etc. Maintenance cycles and charging methodologies must be considered when planning for the electric fleet.
Aspects of Implementation
To avoid equipment downtime, “opportunity-charging” methods coupled with “fast-charge technology” is the solution. While a standard charge profile is 8-12 hours, fast chargers can put back 80 percent of charge in two hours or less. In fact, this rapid-charge profile is a requirement of the FAA’s Electric Aircraft Push-Back Tractor Tech specification. Rapid-charge power stations need to be logistically placed so equipment operators can conveniently plug in whenever the vehicle is not in use.
To determine the best strategic locations, GSE planners need to consider:
- Airport configuration and regulations
- Traffic patterns to and from stations
- Sufficient power supply (In airports without sufficient power a technology called bridge power sharing is used. The jetway used to board passengers has a large electric motor that is only used about two minutes per hour. That electrical circuit can support rapid battery chargers when the jetway motor is not being used. This technology also reduces installa-tion cost significantly since wire and conduit runs are shorter.)
- Appropriate operational room
In the meantime, careful planning and training will optimize both vehicle and driver productivity. The payback is significant. In addition, the cleaner-running GSE operation can collect Air Quality Credits from the airport authorities.
Service fleet operators will need training on:
- Differences in driving and operating
- Maintenance, trouble-shooting and diagnostics
- Charging methods and habits
- Instruments, controls, etc.
- Air Quality Credits
- New mindset: embracing change
No getting around it — electrification encompasses major initiatives, such as the removal of gas tanks. Government support is available and more incentives can be anticipated.
Current FAA initiatives include:
- VALE (Voluntary Airport Low-Emission) Program, begun 2005, is focused on lowering ground emissions at commercial service airports in designated air quality non-attainment areas.
- ARB (California Air Resources Board) programs include Public Interest Energy Research (PIER), which supports R&D via contracts and grants for energy technology and related scientific activities.
Features Green and Mean By Richard Rowe June 2001 Richard Rowe reports on the quest for alternate fuel vehicles that really do make an operational difference in the challenging airport...