In San Francisco, ILEAV funding will be used to acquire 316 low-emission vehicles, including baggage tugs, belt loaders and on-road vehicles, and 11 new electric "fast-charging" stations. The funds will be made available through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program. With local matching funds, the program represents a combined $46 million nationwide investment by the government, airports, and industry.
In addition to San Francisco, other airports selected to participate in the program are Sacramento International; Baltimore-Washington International; Baton Rouge Metropolitan; Chicago O’Hare; DFW; Denver International; Atlanta Hartsfield; and New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports.
With or without such funding, the challenge remains great for airports and tenants alike. The DFW Airport Board, for example, set a long-term goal of converting 50 percent of its overall fleet to operate on alternate fuels. Meanwhile, driven by state and national regulations, the airport’s major tenant American Airlines has committed to changing some 80 percent of its entire powered GSE fleet to electric/alternate fuel within the next 10-12 years.
The conversion will cost more than US$400 million. Its powered GSE fleet currently numbers 9,500 units. American’s huge operation at DFW, which numbers 1,600 units of powered GSE, has to be ready in less than three and a half years.
American’s electrification efforts to date have centered on baggage tractors, belt loaders, and forklifts. The airline currently boasts an electric fleet of around 1,000 units, with nearly 430 at DFW, and sizeable amounts at airport such as Los Angeles and Orlando.
At the time of this writing, American is in the process of changing its fleet to accommodate 695 electric bag tractors, 213 belt loaders, and 50 forklifts. A gradual push throughout the year will see new electric pushback tractors and cargo tractors also come on board.
According to American, infrastructure is the real killer. Airports simply don’t have the means to charge electric vehicles in an efficient and systematic way. "In the past, the problem has been that it takes six to eight hours to recharge [each electric vehicle]," says Dewey Kulzer, Manager, GSE Technology Development, American Airlines. "They couldn’t always make it through an operational day and needed individual chargers."
The solution, according to Kulzer and others, lies in fast charge technology. "Parallel fast charging recharges in under one hour rather than eight hours," says Kulzer. "You can even charge during lunch breaks or run an emergency recharge for 10 minutes that can add two hours of operational life. Fast chargers also use one third of the power of conventional chargers and can charge up to 10 vehicles at one station." This equates to charging three times the equipment with the same power used for conventional chargers.
Earlier this year, American installed the first four of 10 PosiCharge ® MVS multi-vehicle fast charging systems at DFW from California-based AeroVironment. When all 10 MVS chargers are in place, the airline will be able to fast charge more than 100 items of GSE, creating the largest fast charging installation in the world. According to AeroVironment, the system fast charges 24-, 36-, 48-, 72-, 80-and 96-volt battery packs and has a peak power rating of 60kW.
The system enables American to use more electric GSE in areas of the airport where electrical infrastructure is lacking and limits the number of vehicles available because of the need for a dedicated charger for each vehicle. The typical electrical service for an MVS that supports up to 10 charging ports capable of charging up to 10 vehicles can be as low as 70 amps. Ten conventional chargers would require 200-300 amps of electrical service, says AeroVironment.
Allen and Associates, which represents AeroVironment PosiCharge products in the GSE market place on behalf of Enersys, Inc. introduced American to the MVS concept in early 2000. According to Bob Allen, President, three key factors contributed to American’s interest in the system. Available utility infrastructure and physical space were problems, but most importantly, the airline needed to address the shorter time frame in which to charge batteries.
"Due to the increase in red eye and early morning flights, the window to charge an industrial battery in eight hours or less was shrinking substantially," says Allen.
FAA's Inherently Low-Emission Airport Vehicle Pilot Program is underway, writes Michelle Garetson February 2003 The Federal Aviation Administration Office of Airports Community and...
The initial cost of GS equipment cannot be the only determining factor when choosing electric over gas fleets.