National Academies Press: OpenBook

Alternative Fuels in Airport Fleets (2017)

Chapter: CHAPTER FIVE Airport Experience with Alternative Fuels By Vehicle Type

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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER FIVE Airport Experience with Alternative Fuels By Vehicle Type." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Alternative Fuels in Airport Fleets. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24868.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER FIVE Airport Experience with Alternative Fuels By Vehicle Type." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Alternative Fuels in Airport Fleets. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24868.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER FIVE Airport Experience with Alternative Fuels By Vehicle Type." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Alternative Fuels in Airport Fleets. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24868.
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Page 26

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25 CHAPTER FIVE AIRPORT EXPERIENCE WITH ALTERNATIVE FUELS—BY VEHICLE TYPE INTRODUCTION This chapter presents the results of the survey and interviews conducted with airports about various vehicle functions (or “type”). Successful adoption of alternative fuels in airport-owned or airport-contracted vehicles requires coordination across vehicle types and duty cycles. Figure 2 shows the makeup of the Oakland International Airport vehicle fleet, reflecting a typi- cal airport-owned vehicle fleet portfolio. Adoption of a new fuel at an airport also requires coordination across several components of airport planning, including the procurement, operation, and maintenance of vehicles. Many airports administer these components separately. Some airports pay per mile for service, contracting all components to a third party. Some procure the vehicles but contract their operations, whereas others maintain control over all components. Ownership of refueling stations adds another layer of complexity. Refueling stations are sometimes owned by the airport; other times they are owned by a third party that pays the airport to lease land. Vehicles are divided into three functional categories: shuttle vehicles, emergency response and security vehicles, and facil- ity and maintenance vehicles. SHUTTLES Airport-owned and airport-contracted buses, shuttle buses, and vans move passengers and employees between terminals, parking lots, and office buildings, both on- and off-airport. Based on the responses of the 33 airports surveyed, buses, shuttles, and vans were the most likely vehicle types to use alternative fuels. Alternative fuels were used in buses at 21 airports, in shuttles at 16 airports, and in vans at 13 airports. As shown in Figure 16, CNG and biodiesel are the two alternative fuels most often used in airport shuttle vehicles. FIGURE 16 Frequency of alternative fuels in buses, shuttle buses, and vans in surveyed airports (n = 33).

26 Online survey respondents were asked to indicate who has direct control over the operation of these vehicles. Third-party operation appears to be more common than direct airport control for buses, shuttle buses, and vans. The survey did not inquire about the degree to which this third-party operation creates a barrier to alternative fuel adoption. Respondents noted that the public visibility of these vehicles and the opportunity to project an environmentally friendly image were the two main benefits of using alternative fuels. However, as one survey respondent noted, the public visibility of buses, shuttle buses, and vans also poses a risk to the airport’s public image if major issues or delays are associated with the vehicles. The same respondent suggested that airports interested in adopting an untested fuel should do so in passenger cars or pickup trucks, which are less visible to the public and have the added benefit of having a lower upfront cost of ownership than buses, shuttle buses, and vans. Respondents also noted that the shuttle vehicles have high mileage compared with other vehicle categories, which presents refueling challenges—especially for fuels that have range limitations such as CNG, renew- able natural gas (RNG), and electricity. Respondents acknowledged that better planning could mitigate those challenges. Respondents also discussed the relative costs of alternate fuel buses, shuttle buses, and vans to airports. Most respondents said that the upfront costs of these vehicles were higher than those for the equivalent fossil fuel–based vehicles. These results largely followed the fuel types. For example, respondents using CNG, RNG, or electricity reported higher upfront costs, whereas respondents using biodiesel tended to say costs were about the same. EMERGENCY RESPONSE AND SECURITY VEHICLES Emergency response and security vehicles are less frequently powered by alternative fuels. As shown in Figure 17, airports rarely use fuels with limited range in emergency response and security vehicles. Overwhelmingly, airports expressed the need for “ready” vehicles—ones they could quickly and easily refuel and put into operation. Golf carts were the only vehicle category with a high use of electricity. The duty cycles of emergency response and security vehicles are characterized by long periods spent traveling routine pathways and idling, and far fewer periods of intensive driving, sometimes at high speeds. These periods of intensive driving were the main reason airport respondents wanted ready vehicles. FIGURE 17 Frequency of alternative fuel use in emergency response and security vehicles (n = 33). Another barrier to alternative fuel adoption in emergency response and security vehicles is the structure of oversight for these vehicles. At many airports, vehicle procurement, operation, and refueling are overseen by the security and police department rather than by the general airport fleet, which typically oversees other vehicles. This structure poses problems of scale because emergency response and security vehicle fleets tend to be smaller than those of other fleets (e.g., facility and maintenance fleets). Concerns about using alternative fuels in Airport Rescue and Firefighting vehicles and ambulances were similar to those about use in security and police vehicles—namely, that reliability had to take priority. Interviewees articulated a reluctance to try a new or untested fuel.

27 FACILITY AND MAINTENANCE VEHICLES Facility and maintenance vehicles encompass several vehicle types that include work trucks and material handling equipment, among others. These vehicles have a wide range of duty cycles, from long periods of non-operation (e.g., snow plows or mowers) to regular daily use (e.g., forklifts). As shown in Figure 18, the use of alternative fuels in these vehicles varies by vehicle type. CNG and renewable natural gas are used most often in pickups and sedans, and their use is limited in other vehicle types. B20 is used in most vehicle types, especially dump trucks, sweepers, and utility trucks. FIGURE 18 Frequency of alternative fuel use in maintenance and facility vehicles (n = 33). Airports were asked about the upfront procurement cost of alternative fuel powertrains for facility and maintenance vehi- cles, versus gasoline or diesel internal combustion engines. All respondents familiar with vehicle procurement costs relayed that costs were either more expensive or about the same. No respondent reported a lower upfront cost. As discussed earlier, the high upfront cost poses a major barrier to alternative fuel adoption. Multiple survey respondents and interviewees noted that snow removal vehicles present several barriers to alternative fuel use at airports. At some airports, the vehicles sit in non-operational states for much of the year but are essential to the broader airport’s mission in an extreme snow event. Airports report being very reluctant to use untested alternative fuels in snow removal equipment, where reliability is paramount. One innovative strategy used at Chicago O’Hare International Airport was to replace mowers and other landscaping vehicles with goats, sheep, and llamas. Compared with other methods, grazing animals are only cost-effective in areas that are difficult to reach with standard equipment, such as steep hillsides. Although this chapter represents the majority of vehicles used in airport-owned and airport-contracted vehicle fleets, airport fleets also rely on other types of vehicles and equipment. Examples include pressure washers, compressors, lifts, gar- dening equipment, and boats. These less common vehicles and equipment also primarily use gasoline or diesel, and thus have the potential to shift to alternative fuels. However, the main limitation to alternative fuel use is the availability of engines and powertrains that can run on those fuels. Drop-in fuels such as renewable diesel can play an important role in shifting away from petroleum fuels, because no engine replacement is needed. Hydrogen Mobile Lighting at San Francisco International Airport The only instance of an airport in the online survey or interviews using hydrogen fuel is San Francisco International Airport’s (SFO’s) hydrogen mobile lighting unit. This clean, quiet lighting unit replaced a high-emission, aging diesel unit in 2010. As noted in chapter four, SFO reports that hydrogen fuel is very expensive and currently delivered in bottles, but the airport is seeking access to a hydrogen fueling station off-airport, which could lower costs and enable airport personnel to also fuel other vehicle types.

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TRB's Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) Synthesis 85: Alternative Fuels in Airport Fleets is designed to assist airport operators in analyzing complex procurement, operational, and environmental decisions when considering alternative fuels in airport fleets.

Airports own and contract fleets to transport passengers, staff, and goods by on- and off-road vehicles. Although most transportation fuels are consumed by aircraft, using alternative fuels in airport fleets is one opportunity airports have to control emissions and fuel costs and potentially reduce maintenance.

The report compiles information on eight alternative fuels, including biodiesel, renewable diesel, compressed natural gas, renewable natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, hydrogen, and electricity.

Ethanol and hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) are not included in this report because the driving experience and refueling operations associated with ethanol and HEVs are well understood and documented elsewhere.

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