"It’s been a big push," Bosserman says, "to get fossil fuel engines out of there to reduce maintenance cost and reduce emissions ... We’ve got trucks out there right now, in both a refueler and hydrant servicer that have no fossil fuel engine on them whatsoever.
"It’s a 96-volt system that drives everything. Basically, it takes a 55-horsepower, 96-volt system and that motor sits in the same motor mounts where the diesel engine sits. Basically, we buy an Isuzu chassis, pull the diesel engine and the radiator, and put this 55-horsepower motor back in it, and the electronic controller sits in the frame where the radio used to be. We use all the other components from Isuzu – the transmission, the braking system, the rear end, driveshaft, running gear."
While that’s a long way from an electric-driven jet fueler, Bosserman has been asked by a customer to build an electric unit that will carry 2,000 gallons of avgas. He and his chassis supplier are currently working on "piggybacking" two 55-horsepower motors to handle the larger unit.
Because of concerns about using air pressure during fueling operations in cold weather, refuelers have been using the fuel pressure. Air systems can freeze up in cold weather. "We are now driving a lot of the components with fuel pressure versus air pressure," Bosserman says. "That’s the latest thing to make the truck more reliable, especially in cold climates."
Scott Thomas at Determan Brownie and Steven Paul at Garsite report that they are using alternative power on hydrant carts. Determan Brownie’s system applies a hydraulic system while Garsite uses solar power.
"We have developed a cart that uses no electricity or no air," Thomas says. "It’s extremely low maintenance; you don’t have to maintain the electrical system, you don’t have to maintain an air system. And there are no batteries, no recharging. It will operate on the ramp up to 35 degrees below zero ..."
Thomas also reports that his company has developed a cart control center. "It takes all the controls off the cart and puts them in one simple location. All the adjustments are done at one location [with] a field box that prevents tampering."
Paul acknowledges that a solar-powered hydrant dispenser is not new, but combining the hydrant functions with data collection and distribution is. "That’s the trick," he says. "Solar-powered carts existed and data collection systems existed, but your data collection systems require a lot of electricity. A little cart doesn’t require that much, but when you start doing what all these airlines want you to do on their carts," it takes a lot. "We’re able to take an older technology like solar power and improve it so that it’s able to run all those functions."
The biggest advance in refueling operations in the past few years is in what Paul at Garsite calls "seamless, paperless tracking of these volumes of product that go through the refuelers and disseminate that information to all the interested parties: the owner of the equipment, the user of the equipment, the airport authority, the airlines... It’s not new information, it’s just a better and more accurate way of collecting and providing the information."
Wilkinson at Rampmaster ex-plains further: "The next fundamental change in the business is the switch away from mechanical registration to electronic registration ... With electronic registration you can hook up temperature compensation and you can either display in pounds or gallons. And of course, they can transmit that data real-time to a computer. They can take it to another extreme and instantly automate the billing cycle to save lag time between the time the bill arrives at the customer and so forth. It can compensate for the minor inaccuracies built into a mechanical meter. That’s becoming a big thing."