Electric GSE Buying Trends Report

March 18, 2013
How much electric GSE is out there? What goes into making a decision to purchase e-GSE? A readership survey finds steady percentage for electric across all types of equipment and suggests two reasons why readers aren't buying more.

About 10 percent of all ground support equipment is currently electric, and while the e-GSE share holds steadily across all type of ramp equipment, that share isn’t likely to go up dramatically without a guarantee of better battery performance or an increase in funding to purchase the equipment.

That’s what we learned after sending out a survey to a select group of Ground Support Worldwide readers last February.

Our reasons for conducting the survey were simple:

  • To judge the current market for e-GSE,
  • To see what future buying trends might be.

While we certainly could have received more responses to our survey, let’s unpack what we can for what is still a relatively new market for the type of motorized equipment that can typically perform without too many changes for several decades, and what readers say needs to occur in order for e-GSE’s market share to increase.


Our survey went out to a broad group of Ground Support Worldwide readers that included service providers, airlines, FBOs and airports. The majority (41 percent) were “ground handlers/service providers” and 82 percent indicated that they had direct or supervisory influence over purchasing new or used e-GSE.

Most of our respondents had less than $100,000 as their 2013 budget to buy new or used e-GSE, with the rest ranging past $1 million. The majority of respondents (65 percent) indicated that were not able to spend all of their e-GSE budget last year either because of outright budget cuts or that they money might be available this year.

Question: Taking your current total GSE inventory into account, what is the percentage represented by e-GSE?

10 percent or less        57 percent

Between 11-25 percent    23 percent

Between 26-50 percent    6 percent

Between 51-75 percent    6 percent

Between 76-100 percent  6 percent

We wanted to judge when some the first e-GSE was purchased, and we heard from readers who said they may have seen their first piece of e-GSE at some point in the late-1980s.

For our part, we dug up a news story that indicated American Airlines was the first carrier in the United States to replace all its fossil-fueled equipment with electric models at the El Paso International Airport. The story was dated 2001, but said that the airline started the push for electric equipment in 1996 and gave priority to airports in cities with severe air quality issues and deemed “serious” non-attainment designations by the EPA. This designations later became one of the main reasons the FAA stated the Voluntary Airport Low Emissions Program in 2004.

We chose to go back 20 years, since 20 years ago readers would have been paging through the second issue of GSE Today (the former name of our publication.)

Question: Has this overall percentage of e-GSE changed in the past 20 years?

Yes, by at least 10 percentage points. 32 percent

Yes,  but by less than 10 percent points.        21 percent

No. The percentage has remained the same.   46 percent

We also asked about product categories for e-GSE and received a fairly steady, equivalent 10 percent use of electric equipment for cargo, belt loaders, pushbacks/tugs and other service vehicles.

Finally, we asked readers to rank the importance of the following attributes when it came time to decicing which brand of new or used e-GSE to purchase. (We've only listed the "most important" tallies for this question.)

Battery performance 78 percent
Reliability 78 percent
Support 61 percent
Price 59 percent
Maintenance 59 percent
Total cost of ownership 52 percent
Availability 43 percent


If by the “future” we just measure the rest of 2013, the buying power for equipment seems to be there. When asked about budgets, most of the respondents (57 percent) said they had either “the same as 2012” or “more than 2012” to spend on purchasing new or used e-GSE.

If by the “future” we mean the next 10 years, the results are a mixed blessing. Yes, readers do anticipate purchasing more e-GSE across all product categories, but those yes votes don’t reach much past the 50 percent mark, with the votes for “less” or “the same,” of course, filling out practically an equal  share.

Question: Over the next 10 years, do you anticipate that you will purchase more, less or the same amount of new or used e-GSE for the following product categories?


More    50 percent

Less     21 percent

The same         29 percent

Belt loaders

More    52 percent

Less     31 percent

The same         17 percent


More    41 percent

Less     41 percent

The same         18 percent


More    40 percent

Less     13 percent

The same         29 percent

Service vehicles

More    40 percent

Less     32 percent

The same         28 percent

What might be stopping readers from purchasing more e-GSE? While it’s difficult to use statistics to determine individual motives, that’s never stopped us in the past so here are a few answers worth considering:

  • When asked whether they had directly used or been a participant of VALE funding and/or other sources of public money to purchase e-GSE, a strong 75 percent of our respondents said “no.”
  • On the other hand, when asked if public funding were available that would allow, say, a ground handling service provider to directly purchase e-GSE, a resounding 73 percent said “yes.”

So everyone likes “free.”  VALE isn't the only source of funds for e-GSE, but it is the best-known.

n fiscal year 2011, the FAA issued VALE grants for 12 projects at 11 airports for low-emission projects.Since 2005, the FAA has funded 52 low-emission projects at 30 airports representing a total investment of $138 million ($109 million in federal grants and $29 million in local airport matching funds) in clean airport technology.

But there’s another, maybe more troublesome, issue than funding that could be stopping or at least slowing down the purchase of more e-GSE.

Question: What type of batteries power the majority of your e-GSE?

Rechargeable lead acid           86 percent

Lithium ion                             14 percent

Then, when asked how satisfied they were with the performance of e-GSE, i.e., runtimes vs. downtimes for recharging, a little over a third (37 percent) of our respondents said they were “satisfied” with almost as many (41 percent) were “neutral. Couple that with one of answers above that indicated how important battery performance is to purchasing decisions.

Finally, our very last question was this:

Question: Which one of the following statements most closely describes your opinion regarding the future of e-GSE?

E-GSE performs well within a mix of non-electric equipment, but it would take a huge change in battery performance for e-GSE to make up the majority of GSE inventory  60 percent

The higher energy prices rise and the tougher environmental regulation get on non-electric power sources, the more likely I will choose e-GSE                  27 percent

E-GSE will never command a large share of the market since its first costs are higher than non-electric GSE.       13 percent.

Taking all those answers into account for future purchases, we’re led to believe that battery technology has to improve no matter how "free" sources of funding make the equipment out to be. Can lead acid technology do more? Or can lithium power come down in price? And what about the matter of funding overall? We’ll talk more about these matters in our next issue.