Green Power

Dec. 18, 2019
Colibri Energy's line of lithium GSE batteries provide power in some of the planets harshest environments and make for safer working conditions and reduced operating costs.

It’s a given that the military needs the best out of their equipment. Outdated technology doesn’t cut it. At the same time, militaries around the globe operate in some of harshest climates there are and need their tools to be up to the task. Answering the call of both needs is Colibri Energy, whose line of lithium batteries is paving a lead-acid battery-free future for ground support equipment (GSE) in the civil and military markets.

Designed to work in some of the most extreme environments on the planet, Colibri’s lithium batteries were first developed in 2013. Their roots, though, trace back to 2011 when they participated in numerous research projects sponsored by German industry and the German Government in lithium battery technology and e-mobility. Their first lithium powered GSE fleet launched in 2014 in Doha, Qatar.

“In 2013 we developed our first lithium battery pack for the GSE market,” explains Kasimir Rantzau, business development manager at Colibri. “Lithium battery technology has continued to evolve over the last five years and we have taken advantage of technology improvements each year, giving our customers both improved battery longevity and increased energy density. We are now on our 3rd generation battery pack. In addition to improving the battery, we are now focused on real-time data gathering and analysis of GPS, vehicle and battery information to help our customers improve their operations and reduce costs.”

When designing the batteries, Colibri set out to meet four key criteria:

    • Survive tarmac temperatures in the middle east which can exceed 50 degrees C and 100 percent humidity.
    • Fit in the space occupied by standardized lead acid batteries for baggage tractors and other commonly used GSE vehicles
    • Full compatibility with existing tractor electronics to allow operators to easily swap lead acid batteries with COLIBRI Lithium systems.
    • Safety under all operating conditions, including heavy abuse tolerance
  • “Our key features are reliability in temperatures ranging between -20 to +60 degrees Celsius, long-lasting performance that’s five times longer than lead acid, and ultra-fast charging. These features are mirrored in higher availability, lower operating costs and smoother operations. In comparison to lead acid, our battery has proven cost savings of over 50 percent,” said Rantzau.

Colibri’s standard 80 volt battery is designed to be compatible with all leading GSE vehicle brands that require high workloads, absolute reliability and that cannot be paused from service due to battery maintenance or repairs. This includes vehicles such as: baggage tractors, cargo tractors, pushbacks, lifters, belt loaders, forklifts and AGVs. Colibri also makes a version of its batteries specifically designed for the fleets in extremely climates

“We have over seven years of experience at airports located around the globe, with some of the locations suffering from horrible tarmac, climates both with extreme rain, snow and dust, and high availability requirements. Our battery was engineered from day one with these environments in mind and since 2013 we have continued to engineer increasing levels of robustness, safety and performance into each new generation,” Rantzau said.

The advantages of switching from lead-acid batteries to lithium is multifold. Lithium batteries make for safer operations from requiring much less maintenance than lead-acid and have neither the dangerous chemicals nor gasses associated with lead-acid batteries. Lithium batteries are also ideal for machine pooling, as the batteries can be operational 24/7, not needing to be taken down for cooling or maintenance. And thanks to their quick charging and maintenance free nature, lithium batteries allow for a quick change over from lead-acid without needing any additional infrastructure changes.

“Infrastructure costs can be greatly reduced through lithium, due to lower charging times. This enables airports and ground handlers to require less chargers to maintain optimal operations. Battery maintenance workshops also are not required, due to the zero maintenance nature of COLIBRI lithium batteries. This allows ground handlers to have slim fleets, rather than additional batteries for swaps and/or inflated fleets to secure vehicle availability,” exaplined Rantzau.

Another advantage over other lead-acid batteries is lithium’s overall performance.

“A valuable benefit that lithium provides is that it sustains its intended voltage far longer that lead acid. A common issue that lead acid batteries face, is its drop in voltage as the charge depletes. This causes the availability to performance and power to be significantly reduced. The result, lower speeds and severe limits with high loads and climbs,” said Rantzau. “About 50 percent of our customers had diesel powered and 50 percent had lead acid powered GSE prior to purchasing a Colibri Energy solution. In both cases, our customers report the support our engineering and support teams made the transition to Colibri Energy painless. That is why over 70 percent of our business is from repeat customers.”

Technology around lithium is beneficial for being so new that it will not be replaced anytime soon and is posed to continue to advance as time goes on.”

“Lithium battery technology and the supporting electronic components evolve at a rapid pace and our standard products are improved each year. We are currently working with a number of major GSE manufacturers to develop new battery packs as those manufacturers increasingly move away from diesel to electric GSE. In addition, we are enhancing our software and data gathering so we can deliver to customers better insight into their fleets and operations,” Rantzau elaborated.