AVIACO, the GSE leasing, maintenance and fleet management specialist, has teamed up with Eindhoven, Netherlands-based XYZ Dynamics to offer customers an innovative and environmentally friendly GSE retrofit offer
Together, the partners will be able to modify a customer’s diesel-powered GSE to lead-acid or lithium ion configuration, with all the benefits that that offers in terms of improved environmental sustainability, lower maintenance requirements and reduced operational costs.
The origins of the partnership date back to May this year, when the two companies first met to discuss potential synergies for them and their customers. As Danny Vranckx, AVIACO’s CEO, explains, XYZ Dynamics brings its experience in the conversion of electric vehicles, while AVIACO offers its long experience in the GSE and aviation market, as well as its contacts.
The first fruits of the collaboration were in evidence to the wider market at the recent inter airport Europe exhibition in Munich, where a TMX-150 pushback – the partners’ initial prototype foray into the electric conversion business – was on display. Already, there has been plenty of interest in the concept, both at the exhibition in southern Germany and elsewhere, says Vranckx, and he is expecting plenty more in the months and years ahead.
XYZ is a relatively new company, having been founded just three years ago. Its mission, explains one of its co-founders, Alex Pap, is to “smooth the energy transition” process of conventional vehicles to fully electric or hybrid configurations. To achieve this, it offers high-end powertrains for retrofit packages.
XYZ has experience of doing this in the light commercial vehicles market and made its first entry into the on-airport sector in 2020, when it converted a set of FMC self-propelled passenger stairs from diesel to electric for its local air gateway, Eindhoven Airport.
As part of its partnership with AVIACO, it will provide the blueprint and powertrain for electric GSE conversion packages, starting with the TMX-150 prototype seen at inter airport and moving on to other pushbacks and other GSE types as requested.
Customer demand will determine where AVIACO and XYZ concentrate their efforts, but Vranckx explains that the partners’ initial focus in terms of promoting this new electric power retrofit capability will be around those types of GSE that are most commonly operated at airports: belt loaders, ground power units (GPUs), baggage tractors and pushbacks typically serving narrowbody aircraft such as those in the B737 and A320/321 families of aeroplane.
Both AVIACO and XYZ will promote the new offering as partners in the project. Indeed, XYZ will devote its energies in the aviation market to this collaboration with its new Dutch partner, Pap confirms.
As AVIACO chief operating officer Bart Kroonenberg observes, collaboration is essential to the new offering: AVIACO does not have the high level of engineering expertise relating to powertrain conversion that XYZ does, while the latter does not have the former’s expansive knowledge of the GSE business and of the requirements of those operating within it.
Although the initial thinking is that any diesel GSE conversions to battery power will be handled in one of AVIACO’s workshops, there is also the option for the modification to be undertaken at a customer’s own engineering facility.
Another possibility under consideration is for AVIACO and XYZ to provide a conversion package or kit to a customer, so they can undertake the process themselves.
The engine removed from a converted vehicle could be sold if it is financially viable to do so, as could other components removed during the modification process, or returned to the unit’s owner/operator if required.
AVIACO and XYZ are talking with a number of ground service providers (GSPs) about this newly available electric battery retrofit option. As Vranckx points out, many of the big ground handlers are no stranger to the concept of converting their GSE fleets to electric power. Indeed, many airports are now demanding that GSPs at their gateways operate a minimum ratio of electric to diesel equipment.
From inter airport in Munich, the TMX-150 will be demonstrated to potential customers wherever it is requested. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol will be an obvious potential market, being one of Europe’s busiest gateways and one close to both XYZ and AVIACO, as well as being the workplace of at least seven different ground handlers.
Value for money
AVIACO’s business model emphasises the monetary value that a GSE retrofit can offer operators, and conversion of diesel equipment to electric battery power supports this model. As Pap notes, while GSE batteries might have been quite expensive in the past, prices – especially of lithium – have come down, and certainly in terms of operating costs they represent a significant improvement on diesel engines, which cost more in terms of maintenance as well as fuel.
As for whether a conversion is to the lead-acid or lithium ion option, that is entirely down to the customer – although lithium batteries are perhaps twice as long lasting as lead-acid, says Pap, and also enjoy much faster charging times. All these benefits of course support the greater sustainability that such vehicles offer their operators, the airport at which they are used and the wider environment.
All in all then, adds Vranckx, “It is a win-win situation” for those who choose to convert their GSE from diesel to battery power.