Cleaner, Leaner, & Greener

Feb. 1, 2003

FAA's Inherently Low-Emission Airport Vehicle Pilot Program is underway, writes Michelle Garetson

February 2003

The Federal Aviation Administration Office of Airports Community and Environmental Needs Division proposed its Inherently Low Emission Airport Vehicle (ILEAV) Pilot Program back in November 2000 and through an application process, selected 10 public-use airports after February 2001 for the program.

Congress established the ILEAV Program under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21) and restricted eligibility to:

  • Public-use airports in designated nonattainment areas (NAA).
  • Vehicles located or primarily used at the airport.
  • Vehicles operating exclusively on six alternative fuels: compressed natural gas (CNG), liquified natural gas (LNG), liquified petroleum gas (LPG/propane), electricity, hydrogen, or methanol-85.

Congress also limited Federal grant assistance to the "incremental purchase cost" of eligible low emission vehicles. There was no limitation on infrastructure beyond the overall 50-50 cost share requirement. The FAA also encouraged airports to provide public access to ILEAV refueling or recharging stations to maximize regional air quality benefits. All of the ILEAV grant agreements with airports were signed at the end of September 2001, when airports could begin to place equipment orders.

About the Program
Evaluating the reliability, performance, and cost-effectiveness of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) and infrastructure in the airport environment is the main goal of FAA's ILEAV program.

Aerovironment's role in ILEAV

Jelen continues, "The program includes data gathering. The data shows how much electricity is consumed and how often the vehicles are used. I think this is a win-win program. The outcome has been a huge emission reduction."

The FAA administers the program under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) and adheres to AIP guidelines unless directed legislatively. Ten ILEAV grants were awarded and authorized for amounts of up to $2 million per airport. Airports must match the amount of each grant on a 50/50 basis. Some airports have successfully exceeded this requirement and leveraged additional local contributions.

The 10 airports chosen to participate were: Atlanta Hartsfield (ATL), Baltimore-Washington (BWI), Baton Rouge (BTR), Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW), Denver (DIA), New York's Kennedy (JFK) and LaGuardia (LGA), airports, Sacramento (SMF), and San Francisco (SFO).

FAA receives reports from participating airports in order to monitor the program and to compile project information for other interested airports and organizations. The reporting process will continue through 2004 or 2005, when most of the pilot projects are expected to be fully implemented.

Reports from airport participants are to focus on the transition from estimated to actual emission reductions from low-emission airport vehicle operations. What remains to be seen is whether the real emission benefits achieved from the new vehicle technology will equal the original airport forecasts. Future financial reporting will look at actual expenditures by organization, project cost-effectiveness ($/ton/pollutant), and life-cycle return on investment. Operational areas will include types of vehicles and infrastructure, maintenance, and best practices for safe and efficient vehicle use and fuel handling. Many of the participating airports have formed local partnerships with energy suppliers, vehicle manufacturers, and fleet operators to strengthen their pilot projects. At many airports, airlines represent the largest contingent of vehicle owners and operators.

Vehicle Types
The emission savings will be derived through Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) displacement of conventional gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles. Specifically, the program will support the purchase of nearly 2,200 new low-emission airport vehicles. Of this total, roughly 1,600 of the vehicles or 73 percent, will be GSE, while 600 or 27 percent will be Ground Access Vehicles (GAV). The GAV are mostly light-duty cars, vans, and pickup trucks, except for about 20 percent heavy-duty buses and shuttles.

Current status
Jake Plante of the FAA's Environmental and Community Needs Division (APP-600) offers that in light of everything that's happened and is happening in aviation, the ILEAV program is faring pretty well. "About half are going as planned," says Plante. "DFW is almost done as is DIA; SMF, BWI and BTR are all doing well with their programs, and the others such as ORD and ATL, where there was a lot of airline GSE, are needing some more time to get things in order.

He continues, "We require that they make a good faith effort to comply but there are no hard and fast dates. After 9/11, the airlines were not able to do what they wanted to do. We've been encouraging the airlines to do what they can."

Indications are that project planning and purchase orders are moving forward again on a comparable pace with the financial recovery of the airlines and the economy. Another positive indicator is that two participating airports, ATL and BTR, have requested an expansion of their original project proposals.

"I think it will track the economy," says Plante. As things get better, the airlines will be able to make those GSE investments."

GSE/GAV Numbers
In a status report from March 2002, numbers for the amount of GSE and GAV already purchased or to be purchased and installed at the 10 airports are as follows:

ATL: Has received delivery of 2 of 10 light-duty vehicles. Delta Airlines will purchase 230 project vehicles, including 150 units of electric ground support equipment (GSE) and 80 CNG light-duty ground access vehicles (GAV) - cars, vans, and pickup trucks. FAA approved ATL's request in September 2001 to increase their grant by approximately $150,000 (8.5 percent) to the maximum $2 million for installation of electric rechargers.

BTR: An all-CNG project and is finalizing the design of a new fueling station with public access. The airport is planning to propose a 15-percent increase in their ILEAV grant to effectively double the capacity of the planned facility, which will serve 20 ILEAV GAV, other airport vehicles, and regional fleets.

BWI: After a period of uncertainty regarding the availability of local matching funds, the proposed acquisition of 89 heavy-duty, 22 ft. and 40 ft. CNG shuttle buses will now be supported through airport parking fees.

ORD: The largest ILEAV project with 500 all-electric vehicles. The main participants are American Airlines and United Airlines. American will purchase about 350 GSE, of which 95 baggage tugs and 26 belt loaders will be acquired by third quarter 2002. Similarly, United will buy 140 GSE with an initial order of 21 baggage tugs and 12 belt loaders. To support these operations, the airlines will purchase 47 and 10 fast chargers, respectively. American has selected the gate location for 11 of their rechargers.

DFW: This all-electric GSE project will bring 138 new baggage tugs and 18 new belt loaders into operation. American Airlines will buy 110 of the baggage tugs and 10 of the belt loaders, with Delta purchasing the remainder. The project includes 18 fast-charge systems that can service 10 vehicles simultaneously. Deployment of these systems began in May 2002.

DIA: An all-CNG project involving 112 vehicles, of which 62 are airport GAV (35 light-duty vehicles, 27 heavy-duty buses) and 50 are GSE baggage tugs owned by United. Existing CNG infrastructure will fuel these vehicles.

JFK: Economic problems face the airport and the participating airlines. It is likely that the first purchases will be the Port Authority (PANYNJ) acquisition of 47 light-duty CNG vehicles. Eventually, some 415 electric and CNG GSE will be purchased by Triangle Services, Inc. (171), Delta Airlines (128), and American Airlines (116). Delta and American also plan to buy 86 and 10 light-duty vehicles, respectively. These vehicles will be served by four CNG refueling stations built by the Kingdom Group and 13 fast chargers from AeroVironment.

LGA: Similar to JFK, vehicle and equipment acquisition has been deferred due to industry-wide economic impacts. Future commitments include the purchase of 33 light-duty CNG vehicles by the PANYNJ and of 107 electric GSE by Delta (63) and American (44), respectively. Eleven fast-chargers are planned.

SMF: This project will fund 59 mostly light-duty vehicles powered by electricity, CNG, and
LPG and will include substantial vehicle testing and evaluation. Upgrades to the infrastructure involve CNG and LPG refueling stations, plus 3 fast-chargers.

SFO: The airport expects to take delivery of four CNG parking lot shuttles in July. The airport will acquire another 136 CNG and electric light-duty vehicles. As for GSE, United and Delta have temporarily deferred purchase of 118 baggage tugs and 58 belt loaders, of which United accounts for 100 and 49 of these units, respectively. The airport has existing CNG refueling but the airlines will need 11 new fast-chargers.

Further information about the program is available on the FAA ILEAV web site:, or by contacting Jake Plante, Environmental and Community Needs Division (APP-600), Airports Office, FAA, 800 Independence Ave. SW, Washington DC 20591. (202)493-4875, fax (202)267-8821, and email: [email protected].