Delta goes green with electric baggage vehicles

Delta Air Lines on Thursday unveiled a fleet of electric baggage-handling vehicles that it hopes wil

Delta Air Lines on Thursday unveiled a fleet of electric baggage-handling vehicles that it hopes will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and field costs.

Delta spent $365,000 on the battery-powered equipment — six baggage tractors and three belt loaders — which will replace machines powered by diesel fuel.

“This program will help to expand our sustainable business practices and achieve significant operational and environmental benefits,” said Fred Acunto, Albany station manager for Delta Air Lines.

CO2 emissions, linked by some scientists to global warming, will be reduced at the airport by 396 tons per year because of the switch from diesel to electric, according to Delta Air Line officials.

The Delta Air Lines baggage system switch-over was made possible by a 10-vehicle electric charging station manufactured by Posicharge GSE and made less expensive by a $193,560 grant from the New York Power Authority.

“The vehicles use conventional lead acid batteries. The enabling technology is really the rapid charging system. It’s intelligent, it actually speaks to the vehicles, so the charging system knows which vehicle it’s charging when and how much current to give it,” NYPA Electric Transportation Engineer John Markowitz said. “You can charge the entire battery in roughly an hour. What happens under normal airport operations is they’ll unload a couple of flights, plug the charger in when they take their break and in that 15-minute period the vehicle’s battery can go from say like 40 percent to like 70 percent. That’s what allows it to be used for multiple shifts.”

Delta Air Line officials estimate the cost of charging the batteries will be 75 percent less than using diesel fuel.

Airport spokesman Doug Myers said there are 29 diesel-powered baggage vehicles at Albany International Airport being used by the airport’s six other major airlines besides Delta. Myers said the airport favors conversion of the rest of the diesel vehicles to battery power as part of its “go green” initiative to reduce CO2 emissions.

“We’d like that to happen. We are slowly changing our entire fleet over to [compressed natural gas-fueled]. Right now we have a few pickup trucks and six buses that are powered by CNG,” he said.

Airport Authority officials said new electric baggage tractors will reduce air pollution that can accumulate in the airport’s baggage tunnel because the electric vehicles have no exhaust systems.

“These vehicles also have a lot less moving parts and they are easier to maintain,” said Markowitz. “It just has an electric motor that connects directly to the wheel. You don’t have a whole transmission system. There’s no exhaust system and no fluids to replace.”

According to NYPA officials, the state-owned utility’s clean energy technologies program has placed 850 hybrid and all-electric vehicles in the fleets of public entities throughout the state.

“If [companies] see that Delta is doing this here it should be easier to get one of the other airlines to switch. That’s really the key. Corporate America is becoming more green and energy-conscious every day,” NYPA President Roger Kelley said.

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