Sustainability and innovation

posted on 5th June 2023
Sustainability and innovation

Yves Crespel, Alvest’s group communication director and group talent director, explains how the multifaceted GSE group is playing its part in moving ramp operations towards a greener future – and it is innovating to do so

Do you see the move toward greater sustainability in GSE as one of the big trends that will dominate GSE supply in coming years/decades? Is that the sort of thing that your customers are telling you?

Yes, the move toward greater sustainability in GSE is likely to be a dominant trend in the coming years and decades. With increasing awareness of environmental issues, many industries are prioritising sustainability and seeking more eco-friendly alternatives.
As a result, the demand for sustainable GSE is undeniably growing. Hence our Leaner & Greener® approach to airport operations.
[Through a programme of continuous innovation and commitment to quality, TLD’s mission is to help make aviation leaner – more efficient – and greener – more environmentally friendly.]

How is Alvest shaping the way it works and the products it offers with this in mind?

We are actively involved in setting international standards for an ethical and responsible aviation industry. To address these challenges, [Alvest Group company] TLD has pioneered electric GSE for more than 20 years now and continues to innovate with electric drivelines associated with alternative power sources (batteries, hybrid, pluggable hybrid or fuel cells), allowing our customers to adapt their GSE to the infrastructure to which they have access.

How quickly are you moving away from diesel engines to all-electric battery or hybrid vehicles?

We announced during GSE Expo [in Paris last year] that we would stop producing GSE with internal combustion engines by 2025. This will be the case. All our GSE today is eGSE-ready and compatible.
Customers can choose electric today and adapt their power sources in the future, in a very flexible way, to remain adapted to their infrastructure and efficient on the ramp.

Is battery power, and even hybrid, suitable for all GSE though? Even the bigger pushbacks or de-icers, for example?

Definitely yes! Today all of our equipment runs electric, including the largest pushbacks. The way we have conceived our iBS [intelligent battery system] allows our customers to run them over multiple units over time, from a very demanding unit, energy consumption-wise, to a less demanding one – from a TPX [towbarless aircraft tractor] to an NBL [belt loader].
[iBS is a modular battery unit, consisting of individual 80 VDC packs that can be combined like building blocks to create batteries with 22kWh increments (e.g. 44, 66, 88kWh or higher). iBS can be used on all TLD GSE electric product lines.]

Do you believe that hydrogen fuel cell technology will become a viable alternative to diesel GSE?

Yes, I believe that hydrogen fuel cell technology has the potential to become a viable alternative to internal combustion engines (ICE) for GSE. It offers zero emissions, quiet operation and high energy density, which makes it an attractive option for sustainable GSE.
The need for on-airport hydrogen sources is a debate to be had, however. There will eventually be a balance between cost efficiency and ease of use.

Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic and the shortage of manpower that many ramp operators felt when the industry began to recover, has given automation a boost? Are handlers and airport operators looking for ways to cut back on manpower (and associated costs) more than ever?

Growing autonomous operations is a critical pillar for leaner aviation. Not only it will bring efficiency and reduce costs for ground handlers, but it will also increase safety and reduce the human error factor.

How is Alvest/TLD supporting the move towards greater automation? Is ADAS an important step down this road, for instance?

Alvest/TLD is supporting the move towards greater automation by developing and implementing advanced driver assistance systems [ADAS] for GSE. ADAS is an important step towards greater automation as it enables GSE to operate more efficiently, reduces accidents, and enhances safety and productivity for operators. With real operations around the world, our TractEasy driverless tow tractor is the illustration of such a move.
We are also the only group to run level 4 autonomous pieces of GSE airside.