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...


The CBT 350 baggage tow tractor is designed for light to heavy-duty long distance towing. The powertrain is a 80V, 30kw (40hp) A/C motor, electronic accelerator pedal assembly, and AC/DC converter for 12V auxiliary service.

According to Bill Biermann, Manager, Sales and Marketing at Charlatte, at least three major U.S. airlines are lining up to add the CBT 350 to their fleets. Final work and comprehensive testing is now being conducted on the vehicle’s axle, and everything should be squared up by mid-summer, says Biermann.

Meanwhile, Charlatte’s CUV 2000 features a heavy-duty unitized welded chassis rated at 32,000 pounds GVW with a planetary rear axle rated at 30,000 pounds and standard beam front axle rated at 22,000 pounds, providing a 12,000 pound load capacity. Energy is supplied by 4 x 80V batteries wired in series to provide 320 volts to power a 90 hp A/C booster drive system.

Biermann reports one major U.S. fuel vehicle manufacturer, together with an international fuel provider, as showing strong interest in incorporating the universal chassis into its first electric fuel truck. "They are looking at a full electrified fuel truck and pumping station," says Biermann.

In another first, one of Charlatte’s sister companies within its parent Fayat Group in Toulouse, France, is developing a new electric airport ramp sweeper. Biermann is excited about the new venture and says that the multi-purpose sweeper will be ideal for removing FOD, rubber deposits, oil, and glycol from the airport tarmac.

Charlatte is clearly one manufacturer with proven GSE that can provide demonstrable operational savings for airline customers. The company now offers a range of products that includes AC and DC baggage tractors, belt loaders, maintenance utility carriers, and smaller mail logistics tractors.

According to Charlatte’s VP, Sales and Marketing, Bill Dean, studies by major air carriers show that the maintenance costs for such equipment is roughly half that of internal combustion engine vehicles. "Depending on use, this can result in savings from $1,000 to $4,000 per vehicle annually," he says. "When these savings are added to the various governmental incentives that promote zero emissions vehicles, the numbers are very attractive and estimates of capital return have shown payback in less than 36 months."

Meanwhile, working in close partnership with Southwest Airlines, FMC Airline Equipment has produced an emissions-free electric version of its B350 Aircraft Tow Tractor. According to FMC, Southwest is now field-testing a prototype of the new battery-powered unit under actual ramp conditions at it facilities at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

"The prototype has exceeded our expectations in terms of performance, times between charges, and duration of pushouts," commented FMC Tow Tractor Product Manager Tim Rane.

Southwest’s desire to acquire FMC B350s with all its usual features but electric power originally spurred the joint developmental project, says FMC. When prototype testing is complete, the company will manufacture an additional 19 electric B350s for Southwest, bringing the initial fleet to a total of 20.

Next, FMC development plans call for producing an electric version of its B600 Tow Tractor.

Another U.S.-based manufacturer, Harlan Corporation, recently launched its new HLE 80 volt electric airport towing tractor with an AC motor that the company says makes it perform more like a diesel than an electric-powered vehicle.

According to Harlan, the HLE has the lowest overall operating cost available in the market place while also providing distinct safety and environmental competitive advantages. The vehicle uses an integrated drive axle (the motor is built into the axle making it more efficient), and a robust one-piece cast hydrostatic steer axle with the cylinder made into the middle of the beam. (Look for a report on developments with this exciting new product in the next issue of GSE Today.)

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