An emissions-free option for powering GSE

posted on 7th September 2021
An emissions-free option for powering GSE

Green Cubes Technology supplies lithium-based power systems for GSE, an alternative to both diesel engines with their damaging emissions, and lead acid battery systems. Jerry Crump, director of business development, explains the benefits

Can you tell us what Green Cubes Technology offers the airport GSE market in terms of battery technology?
Green Cubes Technology offers clean lithium power systems to support existing and new electric GSE (eGSE) deployed around the globe. For years, we had specialised in lead acid and internal combustion replacement solutions for material handling equipment, but we’ve taken that knowledge and applied it to eGSE and lead acid replacement solutions.
Our lithium power systems use lithium iron phosphate (LFP) which, based on our research, is the best chemistry to use for eGSE today. It is a very reliable chemistry with decent energy density; but, more importantly, it is a very safe and stable chemistry that doesn’t include toxic metals.
LFP is compatible with airfield operations because, unlike traditional lead acid, it has great energy charging and discharging properties that match up with eGSE usage. It can handle spikes of draw in electric loaders and pushbacks without generating large amounts of heat waste throughout the system and allows for faster recharging. This faster recharging allows airside operations personnel to opportunity charge between flights and during personnel break periods.
In addition to the fundamental chemistry change, we work to optimise communication and charging protocols. We’ve worked with several eGSE OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] to supply full CAN bus integrated solutions [a controller area network bus standard allowing communication between devices within a system] for their eGSE to optimise performance between the battery and the eGSE in which it is installed.
Similarly, we’ve worked with different charging solutions to charge batteries using full CAN communication, allowing for highly efficient charging (up to 98%). Since there is no agreed upon CAN protocol amongst eGSE OEMs or charger manufacturers, it does take some co-operation between Green Cubes Technology and the OEMs to provide this solution.

What sorts of customers do you typically sell to within the aviation sector?
We are in discussions with several airlines, cargo operations and ground handling companies within this market space. Our goal is to be able to support any eGSE owner with our green energy solutions. Our multiple locations and select channel partners provide manufacturing and support capabilities to larger enterprise customers throughout most regional locations.
We don’t determine our customers based on size, but rather the level of integration that is needed and their ability to fully realise the benefits of our solution. For example, the type of charging infrastructure that they have to support our product. Though we will do what we can to make our product work with most chargers, there are some older chargers in the market that aren’t compatible with our solution.
If the charger is not equipped to handle CAN messages, there is a loss of charging efficiency due to the charger using a charging profile (similar to lead acid) instead of our battery management system directly communicating with the charger about how much energy to provide it.

Away from airports and airport GSE, do you have other markets for your lithium technology?
The material handling market is a large portion of our portfolio, with over 5,000 batteries deployed there. We also provide solutions to industrial OEM and telecom and data centres. All of our business are growing and rely on our Li-ion platforms to convert older technologies to clean power. Our diversified markets allow us to weather economic turbulence and provides economies of scale for components.

What particular benefits do you think your lithium-ion technology brings to the GSE market and to your customers in that space?
Our 35+ years of energy management knowledge and our 20+ years of GSE experience enable us to adapt quickly to the needs of our customers. As our knowledge base increases through all of our verticals, we continually make enhancements to the products.

In terms of cost, how would GSE powered by your lithium batteries compare to other battery-powered equipment, or to diesel units?
We encourage our customers to look at two factors when determining total cost of ownership (TCO): the cost of procuring the battery or engine, and the cost of maintaining them, namely CAPEX (capital expenditure/expenses) and OPEX (operating expenditure/expenses).
The purchase cost of both diesel and lead acid has been on the increase over the last 10 years. The opposite is true for lithium batteries. The upfront costs used to be very prohibitive for lithium, even with the advantages it brought to operations but the cost of lithium solutions has steadily been on the decline and – in many markets – procurement costs over the lifetime of lithium are now cheaper than lead acid or diesel when applied to a 10-year life cycle.
Not only does LFP have a great life cycle, it doesn’t have the heavy metals that require particular care during the life of the battery. Diesel engines have increasingly become more complex and costly due to added emission controls, and now may require additional maintenance items such as diesel emission fluid (DEF), and a higher grade of diesel fuels than were needed with previous models.
With all of these technologies, there is a certain amount of maintenance that goes into keeping them in top operating form. LFP is the closest to maintenance-free of these options. With diesel engines, handlers need to perform preventive maintenance (PM) on a regular basis – using petrochemicals in the process and generating a waste stream. Handlers also need to refuel these engines with diesel fuel that is getting increasingly more expensive year over year.
With flooded lead acid (FLA), handlers need to regularly water them, perform equalisation charges on a set schedule, and rebalance the pH in the battery. This can become a costly process over the life of the battery.
In addition, having a poor battery maintenance programme can become costly due to the reduction in battery life. When factoring in the TCO of LFP versus diesel or FLA, it’s clear that the life cycle cost of LFP is now cheaper than either of the other two technologies.

You mentioned that your business is growing? Do you expect that trend to continue, given the ever-growing emphasis being placed by the aviation industry on emission reduction?
We are seeing a trend towards lithium climbing sharply. In certain markets where FLA does not work as well due to the operating environment, or markets where the cost of lead acid batteries has been prohibitively high, we are seeing that lithium adoption is faster than in other markets.
However, with the TCO model now shifting in favour of lithium, and more of our markets making significant efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, we expect that other markets will adopt lithium.