Airport Business

FEB-MAR 2018

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LAND SIDE 12 airportbusiness February/March 2018 $4 million during the 12-year lifetime of the electric buses. "The only thing we needed to talk about with the proposers was the battery life," Swensen said. "We do run our buses 20 hours per day and we were concerned about how often we would have to charge the batteries to keep them operation, but the companies that we spoke to put our fears to rest that we are not going to have issues with charging the buses, that they could run for long periods of times and service our needs." Kansas City International Airport (MCI) put four electric buses in service in 2017 to service its parking lot shuttles. The BYD-manufactured buses mark the beginning of a replacement of the airport's current compressed natural gas (CNG) fleet, which has been in operation at MCI for nearly 20 years. Kenneth Williams, fleet maintenance super- intendent for MCI, said the airport started look- ing at electric vehicles about four years ago during its regular purchasing process. The FAA had placed an electric vehicle grant under its VALE program, which made it enticing. The total investment for the buses for MCI was $1.8 million. "We were exposed to electric transit and kept investigating what was out there and how it worked and more and more realized this would be a good place to use that because we're a controlled environment," Williams said. Ian Redhead, deputy director of aviation for MCI, said the electric buses cost about 30 cents per mile to operate compared to 80 cents per mile for the CNG buses. The airport discovered the cost of maintaining the CNG buses went up over time, so there was an additional cost savings by switching to electric. "What we first looked as was the possibil- ity of taking one of our existing CNG buses and having it retrofitted to an electric vehicle," Redhead said. "But, then you got into the ques- tion of if you retrofit a vehicle is it then consid- ered a new vehicle and would it qualify for the grant. That's why we switched over to strictly looking at the purchase of the new vehicles. Redhead said MCI opted for BYD buses because of the warranty and guaranty was longer than some of the other electric bus man- ufacturers were willing to give the airport. He said the battery life is also longer than others they investigated. "This one is not a lithium ion battery and that's one of the reasons we went to it. And at the end of its useful life it's not considered a hazardous battery" he said. "We went and looked at the plant in Los Angeles and we were impressed with the technology and everything that went into building the vehicles." PLAN FOR THE FUTURE Indianapolis is using the electric buses to shuttle passengers between the terminal and remote parking lots. Rodriguez said the goal is to eventually use them for all passenger and employee movements to the terminal. "It elevates our customer experience to a great extent," Rodriguez said. "They're comfort- able, they're quite, the acceleration is constant and it really is a fantastic experience for the customer compared to a normal diesel bus." Rodriguez said an electric motor is about the simplest and full proof motors out there, so there was little concern from leaders in moving to the alternative fuel source. "What people are worried about is change," he continued. "We want to make sure as an organization that we accept change and accept change for the benefit of our customers and the community and so forth. IND built a marketing program for the buses to tout their alternative fuel power plant by creating a wrap for the buses to show them the positive message the buses create. "Automatically, everybody gravitates down to the lowest common denominator, which is cost and return on investment. You can always find a cheaper, less environmental- ly-friendly solution to everything. That's not an argument," Rodriguez said. "The argument should be do we as public entities and CEOs of public entities strive to give our communi- ties what they really want which is a cleaner environment? "And the answer is yes." SJC initially looked at installing in-route charging with the buses, but Swensen said they determined it was unnecessary because the buses could get adequate charge when parked at night. The buses were expected to come into ser- vice at SJC either late in 2018 or early 2019. Swensen said there's a delay in delivering the units because the airport does have some left side door stops on its routes, so Proterra has to build a bus to accommodate SJC, which is still subject to Altoona testing before it can be placed into service. San Jose will hold onto its old CNG buses after the electric units come into service, Swensen said. With the growth at the airport, they may use them for shuttling passengers on the airside. Wi l liams said they bui lt out the f ul l charging facilities for the electric buses at MCI as part of plans to purchase more units in the coming years. Williams said BYD assisted with training MCI bus operators and maintenance personnel on the new technology. "People being afraid has been one of the biggest challenges. Running out of power is the same as running out of gas," he said. "Once they get past some of those issues, I've noticed driver fatigue is down after hours of driving one because you're not getting a pulsation or any push from the transmission or shifting or downshifting and they don't have that sound bothering them anymore." Indianapolis International Airport installed charging stations to refuel its electric buses when not in operation. Indianapolis Airport Authority

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