Hamburg Airport Striving for Climate Protection

Aug. 11, 2022
With carbon-reduction identified as a top priority, the German airport tests an all-electric bus in its airside operations.

Nearly 100 percent of the vehicles on the apron at Hamburg Airport (HAM) run on alternative fuels, including synthetic diesel. Its focus on alternative fuels, along with a diversity of the drive types make the airport a reference for the mobility of the future.

For more than five years, the airport has operated without fossil-derived diesel. Since the end of 2016, all diesel-powered vehicles at Hamburg Airport use a synthetic, zero-emissions fuel. Hamburg was the first international airport in the world to make this switch.

According to the airport, its green fleet is comprised of a luggage tractor fleet operating on 100 percent natural gas – and soon hydrogen drive; a diesel fleet running on 100 percent synthetic fuel; solar-powered passenger stairs for aircraft boarding; and passenger cars with electric and hydrgogen fuel cell drive.

Earlier this year, the airport received an all-electric e.COBUS from COBUS Industries for test operation on the apron. The company and the airport teamed with GATE, an association of the airport supply industry, and used the InnoAirport platform to test the forward-looking and sustainable technology in a real airport operation.

"At Hamburg Airport, we are always open to new technologies. We support the further development of powertrains that make air traffic and ground operations quieter and more environmentally friendly. That's why we are pleased to be able to offer the new e.COBUS a real test environment on our apron," Burkhardt Höfer, managing director of HAM ground handling in a GATE, said in news release announcing the trial.

According to Kevin Fischer, innovation manager at GATE, the test with the e.COBUS was primarily intended to illustrate that an electric bus is capable of running a normal shift and thus replacing a diesel model.

Hamburg Airport in 2019 purchased 12 diesel COBUS vehicles and has expressed interest in either electric or hydrogen drive technology for the future.

“We offer our customers a free-of-charge testing of the e.COBUS for future requirements,” says Andreas Funk, CCO/sales director for COBUS Industries GmbH in Germany.

The e.COBUS used in Hamburg was a demo bus, which came from Lisbon. It was trialed during regular shifts, temporarily replacing a diesel bus in Hamburg, then headed to Germany and Italy for additional tests.

Funk points out the e.COBUS was the first low-floor electrically driven airport bus in the market and is based on the well-known diesel COBUS product.

Since 2016, nearly 100 e.COBUS vehicles have been delivered to customers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Middle East, Hong Kong and China.

“We are the only manufacturer who offers several types of battery technologies, such as LTO (lithium titanate) and LFP (lithium ferrophosphate) batteries in order to cope with the operational requirements best,” Funk says.

The e.COBUS 3000 holds 110 passengers, the e.COBUS 2700 carries 96 and the e.COBUS 2700S transports 77.  The busses have a Mercedes Benz chassis and aluminum body along with a Siemens ELFA Electric Powertrain. Complete charging typically takes one to two hours.

“A very interesting offer from COBUS is our conversion program known as e.START, where we electrify diesel COBUS. We have also done that for customers in England, Switzerland and Austria,” Funk says.

While the diesel engine is removed and an electric drive train and battery packs are added, more than 80 percent of the material is repurposed.

Through the e.START project, Funk says, “A diesel COBUS can have a second life and is therefore real sustainable.”

To fulfill future further alternative drive demands, Funk reports COBUS is working to develop the first hydrogen fuel cell-driven bus, which is expected to be available in 2023.

Hamburg Airport was certified Level 3+ by the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA), retroactively for 2021. The Airport Carbon Accreditation is an independent certification process specially developed for airports to record and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

At the end of 2021, the airport became the first major commercial airport in Germany with CO2-neutral operations.

“We have thus satisfied the strict demands of Airports Council International Europe (ACI) for certification of CO2 neutrality,” Michael Eggenschwiler, chief executive officer of Hamburg Airport, says.

The building blocks of CO2-neutral airport operations are reduced energy consumption, innovative technologies, conservation projects and high-quality offset certificates.

Since 2009, Hamburg Airport has reduced its annual CO2 emissions by almost 80 percent, from 40,000 to 8,700 tonnes. In order to fully compensate for the remaining CO2 emissions, Hamburg Airport currently has to invest in high quality offset certificates. With these certificates, in collaboration with FirstClimate, ecological projects are supported to verifiably reduce CO2 emissions within the global cycle. By achieving further CO2 reductions through our own actions, the proportion of offset certificates purchased will be reduced step by step.

The long-term goal is now to go without CO2 emissions entirely by 2035.

 “Despite the economic difficulties arising from the coronavirus pandemic, we have pursued our climate protection goals as a top priority. We are thrilled to be the first major airport in Germany to achieve CO2 neutrality,” Eggenschwiler says. “Today, we are reaping the rewards of the innovative environmental work that our committed team has undertaken over more than three decades. We would never have achieved CO2 neutrality so soon had we not started working consistently towards that goal more than ten years ago. As a municipal corporation, we are leading by example and making our contribution to achieving Hamburg’s climate protection targets.” 

About the Author

Rebecca Kanable | Assistant Editor

Rebecca Kanable, a veteran journalist, joined Endeavor Business Media's aviation group in 2021. She has worked for various publications, including trade magazines and newspapers.

Contact: Rebecca (Becky) Kanable

Assistant Editor of Airport Business, AMT, Ground Support Worldwide 

[email protected]