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Electric Shuttles are Taking Off at Airports

May 7, 2020

Source: Act News

The thud of wheels hitting pavement jolts you awake, alerting you that you have arrived. You step out of the airport terminal, welcomed by a noisy cloud of people hailing rides and vehicles honking. As you wait, you are pleasantly surprised to be greeted, not by another loud, dirty plume of exhaust fumes, but by a shuttle that arrives in a hush. Its silence is a nice change from the deafening sound of travel you are used to.

Motivated by concerns over air quality impacts to local health and looming regulations, several airport location vehicles and equipment are being targeted to transition to technologies that will yield substantial emission reductions, such as battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Diesel buses picking up and dropping off at airport curbsides expose passengers to significant levels of dangerous air pollution. Zero emission alternatives are a quiet and clean solution that reduce air pollution, and according to the American Journal of Epidemiology, incidences of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other respiratory illnesses. Early adopters of electric shuttles are curbing emissions and leading the charge towards zero emission shuttle bus services.

Electric State of Mind

Thus far, 29 states participate in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Sustainability Plan. The plan includes initiatives to reduce emissions and address community needs, while promoting the economic benefits of such actions. Some states and individual airports are going beyond the FAA’s plan and adopting more progressive goals of their own, including mandates to shift to cleaner shuttle bus options.

California has taken the most progressive measures by enacting a regulation that requires airport shuttle bus operators to only deploy zero emission buses This mandate, which went into effect in 2020, applies to shuttle bus operators at thirteen state airports including Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), Burbank (BUR), Oakland (OAK), Ontario (ONT), Santa Ana (SNA), Sacramento (SMF), San Jose (SJC), Fresno (FAT), Long Beach (LGB), Palm Springs (PSP) and Santa Barbara (SBA). The regulation will ultimately require that airport shuttle fleets exclusively operate zero emission vehicles by December 31, 2035.

Georgia’s Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) has implemented its own solution beyond state regulations. Greening ATL, launched in 2016, promotes the installation of 300 chargers and conversions of commercial fleets from diesel to electric. The project is ongoing, and upon completion, the airport’s shuttle system will be completely zero emission.

Manufacturers are rising to the occasion to meet the demand for electric buses, including BYD, Phoenix Motorcars, among others.

BYD, the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles, provides a comprehensive suite of zero emission transit and shuttle buses. In 2017, their 30-foot battery electric models were deployed at Kansas City International Airport (KCI). This was a first-of-its kind achievement in the U.S. at the time, followed quickly by a project at LAX.

In 2018, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) purchased 20 BYD 60-foot articulated battery electric buses to support airfield passenger transportation. This project is expected to reduce LAWA’s annual carbon dioxide emissions by 308 tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) annually. For an airport that transports nearly 2.5 million people annually, LAX’s move towards zero emission solutions will generate a positive and long-lasting impact.

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