Burbank’s Bob Hope Airport is in the process of converting an entire diesel GSE fleet to zero-emissions vehicles. The bid of a $1.3 million electrical charging system allowing the airlines at the airport to use electrically powered ground service equipment was inaugurated in January.
The chargers installed at Burbank feature a special fast-charge capability that is critical for equipment reliability. With 52 flights a day, it was necessary to convert at least 50 pieces of equipment including tugs, belt loaders, air stairs, wheelchair lifts, and pushback tractors. The fast-charge “PosiCharge” feature is manufactured by AeroVironment. “Smart” technology enables a unit to operate for its first turn in 15 minutes as opposed to the conventional two-hour charging period. PosiCharge batteries can be charged during slow periods without developing “memories” that shorten battery run time.
According to Southern California Edison, based on average daily electric consumption and average commercial electric rates, it would cost $3.97 per day to fuel an electric belt loader. The comparable fuel costs for a gasoline belt loader would run $8.18 — more than double the electric fuel costs.
Use of electric-powered models eliminates the need for tune-ups, engine overhauls, exhaust system replacement, transmission maintenance, oil, other engine fluid changes, and more. Gasoline- and diesel-powered belt loaders and tugs have an average service life of three to five years, with the electric versions lasting five to seven years.
Edited from the September 2005 issue of Ground Support magazine, a Cygnus publication.