The owner of the Bliss-Fox brand of GSE is all set to introduce a new fully electric pushback on to the market; the F1-340E will be a new departure for the company
Conburi Province, Thailand-based Panus manufactures a wide range of GSE, including tractors that can tow the largest of today’s passenger aircraft, the double-decker A380. In 2015 it acquired the well-known Bliss-Fox brand, and now offers the aviation market a product line that includes baggage/cargo tractors, passenger stairs, lavatory service trucks, water trucks and other GSE lines as well as its aircraft tugs.
This year, it will reveal its latest offering in the aircraft tug segment, a fully electric 40-ton pushback called the F1-340E. The new vehicle, which was in development for just about a year, recently began its test programme, and became available for potential customers to view.
As of the end of July, the ongoing testing phase had resulted in no significant design or driveline changes, Panus confirms. The testing phase is expected to come to an end on 15 August, as this magazine goes to press.
The all-new lithium-powered tug is reflective of the way the GSE business is changing, reflects Simone Livraghi, senior sales and marketing manager at Panus Assembly Ltd – Bliss-Fox. “The car industry is going the way of electric drive, and so is the airport tractor segment,” he considers. “Since many airports and country are pushing for green [technology], we expect to have a lot of demand,” he adds.
Moreover, the fact that a Thai company – rather than a European or American one – is blazing a trail on a fully electric heavy tractor is a first, Livraghi opines.
The F1-340E will be capable of towing aircraft of up to 380 tons, thus taking in aircraft up to B777 size. It will boast a wide range of benefits for its users. Low operating costs and low maintenance will be prominent amongst them. It will feature regenerative brakes and a diagnostics capability accessible by way of integrated wi-fi accessible on any nearby touchscreen devices or by GPS to a Bliss-Fox service support centre. GPS tracking will support users’ fleet optimisation efforts.
The lithium battery provides 500V/400Ah over a period of up to six hours before requiring a charge while, says Livraghi, recharging will take a very short period of time – just 40 minutes. The fact that it is fully electric not only means no harmful emissions, but low vehicle noise as well.
The independent cabin is made from composite materials that provide for insulation that is advantageous for both cold and hot weather conditions.
Many customers have already come to see the unit during the testing phase of the F1-340E, and the feedback received so far has been “very positive”, Livraghi adds. The F1-340E will be exhibited at the GSE Expo in Las Vegas in October this year, which should give the vehicle plenty of additional exposure to the market.
A customer has already lined up for the new vehicle, while others are certain to follow in short order, Livraghi says, following further display and demonstrations of the unit.