The trend towards electrically powered GSE seems unstoppable but one constraint has been the lack of suitable charging systems available at many airports. One battery and charging system supplier is making strides in Turkey
Pennsylvania, US-headquartered EnerSys, which manufactures stored energy solutions (reserve power and motive power batteries, battery chargers, power equipment, battery accessories and the like), has supplied a number of its systems to Turkish Ground Services (TGS) – the joint venture between Turkish Airlines and handler Havas. These systems, the company says, have “improved the performance, efficiency and reliability” of the electric vehicles that are used by TGS at six major airports across Turkey.
TGS serves over 100 airlines operating at eight airports throughout the country. It provides ground, passenger and cargo handling, and employs a large fleet of electric vehicles, including luggage tugs and push-back tractors.
According to EnerSys, TGS had inherited the facilities supporting these vehicles that had evolved piecemeal over many years. For example, at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, battery charging and changing areas were unmanaged and located outdoors, where they were exposed to changeable weather conditions with little security, the company notes.
TGS looked around for solutions, and turned to EnerSys. The latter then worked closely with TGS to identify the problems and to assess future business requirements. Its proposed solution was based on providing a complete set of new batteries and a purpose-built facility dedicated to battery fleet maintenance and management. The company worked with TGS to finalise a specification and to then project-manage installation of the systems.
EnerSys supplied new batteries, chargers and related equipment. The overall package included 100 of its Hawker Perfect Plus 80V batteries for TGS’s luggage tugs. These batteries are said by EnerSys to be “ideal for arduous and intensive applications because they offer a high level of power with longer running times and improved reliability compared with conventional batteries”.
EnerSys supplied 90 of its Ironclad 80V batteries for TGS’s pushback tractors. They deliver more power with higher discharge rates and up to 15% longer running times than comparable models, the manufacturer insists. They are also said to be particularly suited to intensive applications where operators such as TGS want to extend the period between recharges and minimise the number of battery changes.
A new charge-and-change building was designed by EnerSys from the ground up. It incorporates 100 Hawker Life iQ high-frequency programmable smart chargers. These offer high efficiency and lower charging factor than conventional models, allowing for reduced energy consumption and lower carbon footprint, EnerSys says. They automatically detect the battery’s level of discharge and only supply the amount of power needed to restore full charge before shutting down. They also have a real-time clock which allows charging operations to be scheduled during less expensive off-peak periods.
EnerSys installed 200 of its Wi-iQ wireless battery monitoring devices. Mounted on the DC cable of the battery, these track metrics such as charge, temperature, voltage and electrolyte level in real time and upload data to the main battery management system.
Battery charging and changing operations are overseen by a Hawker LifeNetwork iQ WiFi wireless Battery Fleet Management system. This analyses information from the batteries and chargers, including data from the Wi-iQ devices, in order to maximise performance and efficiency.
Inside the charging room, two large LED screens mounted on the wall provide vehicle drivers with relevant information, including details of the next available battery that they should use. The system is configured to sound an alarm if the wrong unit is selected. Managers can monitor the operation from any computer with a web browser and access a wide range of analytical and reporting tools to assess and optimise fleet performance.
The need for ancillary equipment such as electrical transformers, cabling and water pipes was incorporated into the design from the start. An on-site water treatment plant was installed to ensure a continuous supply of deionised water for the batteries for the automatic filling systems. Epoxy coating on the floor provides protection against accidental spills of water or battery acid. Automatic doors with infra-red sensors ensure the building remains secure against the elements, while allowing easy access for vehicles.
EnerSys has completed similar installations for TGS at five other airports in Turkey – Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, Ankara, Antalya, Bodrum and Dalaman.
“We provided TGS with a good and workable solution, that could be operative in a short time with no big infrastructure investment required,” explains senior marketing director EnerSys EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), Anssi Laitinen, adding that the company has supplied such systems to many airports and other logistics hubs around the world.
The installation at Ataturk and the other Turkish gateways is very much part of a trend, Laitinen opines. “Airports are increasing their focus as regards their environmental footprint and energy efficiency, as all transportation/industrial facilities are. The most advanced airports are already heading towards conversion to electric power for all their GSE.
“It is useful to note that airports are often considered showrooms for the most advanced handling automation and the most efficient logistic solutions available on the market,” he adds.
Asked what sorts of technologies will support this trend, Laitinen says: “It all depends on what types of applications the customers need. The TGS application is specifically a heavy-duty, high-temperature application, where lead-acid square tube is the best choice of technology. In some other applications, for example indoor lighter weight ones, we could propose for example Thin Plate Pure Lead (TPPL) technology.”
A lot of handlers and GSE manufacturers have suggested that what is holding back their transfer to all-electric vehicles is the paucity of charging systems at many of the airports at which they operate and for many airports, much remains to be done in this regard. Laitinen agrees: “Airport grounds are often very big with large open spaces, where it is not always possible to drive a few kilometres back to charging facilities. Gateways are one solution, feasible mainly for higher capacity batteries, while another solution can be on-board charging for smaller class III vehicles.”