Green and Mean

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 environment. There has been momentum before, but nothing...


Of course, American is not alone in its efforts. Airport GSE was also a newly targeted sector in terms of complying with ozone standards in the Houston/Galveston area of Texas by 2007. The initial proposed GSE regulation required 100 percent electrification of GSE from airport operations, according to Jim Houck, GSE Manager, Continental Airlines, outlining the airline’s Memorandum of Agreement with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC).

Continental subsequently negotiated with the TNRCC to implement a voluntary NOx emissions reduction effort at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport. This Voluntary Emission Reduction Program was approved by the TNRCC in October 2000.

Continental’s agreement stated specific reduction requirements. The airline is charged with reducing NOx emissions from its 1996 GSE fleet by 25 percent by December 31, 2003, 50 percent by December 31, 2004, and 75 percent by December 31, 2005.

Other compliance requirements will see Continental install Reasonable Available Controls Considering Costs (RACC) on all of the airline’s GSE placed into service after 1996 and to utilize best available technology (BAT) on all GSE placed into service after 2004.

As Jim Houck told the audience at the February AFV Conference, Continental’s 1,200-strong fleet of powered GSE at Houston (which includes Continental Express) can be broken down as follows: Gasoline 810 (67 percent), diesel 193 (16 percent), LPG 35 (3 percent), and electric 170 (14 percent).

A commitment is now in place to replace belt loaders, baggage tractors, and gasoline forklifts with electric GSE, to install catalytic converters on gasoline GSE, purchase LEV 4.2 engines for long haul GSE, and install catalytic converters and particle traps on diesel engines.

Continental and Continental Express airport infrastructure has already reduced emissions by installing boarding bridge aircraft electrical power and preconditioned air at current gates. Such modifications will also be installed at the new Terminal E at Houston Intercontinental (to be completed in 2003). As Houck points out, this will reduce the reliance on GSE to provide electrical power and cool the aircraft, and should greatly reduce aircraft APU usage and fuel consumption. In addition, electrical power for fast chargers will also be included in the design of the new gates and added to existing structures.

Elsewhere, a new 10,000 square foot GSE shop will be built in Terminal E designed specifically for servicing electric vehicles. Construction has also begun on a new 120,000-square-foot air cargo facility, which will use electric forklifts and fast charging systems.

This year alone will see Continental purchase 25 electric beltloaders, 15 A/C electric tractors, 16 gate fast charging systems, up to 50 4.2 LEV gas engines for long haul tractors, and replace 7 LPG forklifts with electric. The airline will also continue to utilize its growing fleet of towbarless tractors to an average of 30 aircraft moves per day which reduces aircraft fuel burn and emissions. Finally, Continental will from now on purchase only low emission vehicles for on-road use to meet the TNRCC Clean Air Fleet requirements, and replace most vendor fuel trucks with zero pollution fuel carts.

There are many challenges, says Houck, including "Installing the fast charge systems, interfacing the batteries with the fast charger, and training the operators in an all electric vehicle environment."

In addition, Continental has to continue to evaluate the new A/C electric tractors in the Houston bag tunnels with a seven percent grade, and eliminate battery charging decisions and servicing by the operator. The airline plans to use smart battery charging technology and "waterless batteries" (high water lead acid batteries with extended water servicing periods), as well as keeping tabs on advances in fuel cell technology.

The opportunities for GSE manufacturers are clear and many are scrambling to meet the growing demand of the airline community around the world. One, Charlatte America, used last year’s GSE Expo to unveil the latest additions to its range of all-electric powered GSE--a new battery powered CBT 350 tow tractor, and its CUV 2000 heavy-duty universal chassis. Both are designed to incorporate the new Ecostar A/C powertrain and power conversion system from the Ford Motor Company.

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