But, isn't building from the ground up more expensive?
"Our designed chassis that is the platform for the Tempest is actually cost-effective versus trying to buy a chassis from the industry," offers Durst. "If you think about it, in the trucking industry, they're making these chassis for a lot of different applications -- the last of which is for a deicer. Second, we have to modify their chassis in order to make it work properly for a deicer. Also, truck manufacturers are continually changing their chassis models and we're trying to keep up with the engineering to interface our equipment with those changes. We can control our chassis design and because we make it ourselves and because it is designed for its purpose, we can react and be more responsive to the customer."
What about airport infrastructure?
"There's a whole variety of airports out there," says Durst. "If you go into the Houston terminal that was just expanded, they've designed it for electric. The other example on the polar extreme is at LAX in Los Angeles and Heathrow in London where it would be very difficult to get electrics in there. Each customer and airport has a different profile and electrics will most likely not be a solution for all; however, there are electrics in every airport if they have a boarding bridge. Jetway has the capability of providing the battery chargers right off of the boarding bridge to the GSE equipment because the power is already there. Not every airline thinks that way but the boarding bridge and the GSE are typically not working at the same time. And so, that power feed could be used to electrify even an airport like LAX. In reality though, it's the customers who are deciding what direction they want to go and in working with them, we're responding to that. We aren't going to put product out there and drag the customers along. The infrastructure really is the driver for anything that we do on a power system."
From the design point of view of electrics, Heemskerk
feels that FMC is positioned well. "We're comfortable that we're there.
There are going to be those customers that will have a big fleet of equipment
of which maybe 10, 15, or 20 percent will be electric-powered depending on the
particular requirements at a station. We'll have equipment that in many ways
is identical. It will be transparent to the operator, except that it won't make
noise and it won't produce pollution.
Durst adds, "The work that we're doing on electric power actually prepares us for fuel cell technology when it emerges. We think that it's a number of years away, but as we develop and improve the capabilities of our products to function on electric power, then we're also improving them to function on fuel cell. On our loader, we found a number of things that we were able to modify and improve to make it perform better under electric power than diesel power. It performed better under electrics than under the design that was built for diesel, so we made some modifications that tailored it better for electric power and allowed it to perform better. That's the kind of learning that we're going through."
FMC Airport Systems' global ground support team offers a look ahead to trends and events that could affect our industry, reports Michelle Garetson January 2004 While no one in aviation...