September 18th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
ACE Parking has just received 18 electric shuttle buses for the San Diego International Airport, and another 11 are due to arrive by the end of 2020. This is the largest electric shuttle order for an airport in US history according to Endera, the commercial electric vehicle company that is supplying the electric shuttles.
This order is going to switch the San Diego International Airport’s fleet, managed by ACE Parking, from LPG (liquified petroleum gas) and CNG (compressed natural gas) to 100% electricity.
“Sixteen of the vehicles within the fleet will be large, high occupancy shuttles based on the Ford F-550 platform, which are the first of their kind to be electrified,” a press release notes.
The San Diego International Airport and ACE Parking are well ahead of the curve here. The California Air Resources Board adopted the Zero-Emission Airport Shuttle Regulation in June 2019 that requires airport shuttle services to begin adding electric shuttles in 2027 and to be 100% electric by 2035. San Diego International Airport is apparently achieving that target 15 years early.
“By combining our AI driven telematics and safety technology, San Diego International Airport will now have the most technologically advanced shuttle buses on the road at a U.S. airport. We are able to help them accomplish their sustainability goals and show a compelling reduction in energy and maintenance costs for these vehicles,” said John Walsh, CEO of Endera. “The vehicles and their technology will revolutionize the way fleets are managed at airports, hospitals, universities, and any other application where high occupancy vehicles are utilized. Our smart technology coupled with the resulting efficiency saves fleet operators precious financial and energy resources.”
Here are some more specifics on what the electric shuttle buses include:
- 130 miles of range on fully-packed 26 passenger bus.
- Electric drivetrain from Lightning Systems.
- Full charge in as little as 2½ hours.
- Lightweight composite body from Diamond Coach.
How are these shuttle buses actually smart? (Let’s be honest — they don’t look particularly smart on the surface.) Well, they include something I don’t recall seeing elsewhere: “an automated passenger counting system which uses cameras and AI algorithms to accurately count passengers and provide detailed reports to the management team.”
Interestingly, that last bit stemmed from the needs of the day during this COVID-19 pandemic. “Part of the technology was designed to help combat the spread of COVID-19 by including an infrared camera that reads passengers’ temperatures as they board the bus, alerting the driver of an ill passenger.”
They are also smart on the customer side in extremely useful — though not revolutionary — ways. It uses what is called the Wayne Go app, an iOS and Android app. This app “allows airport riders to see in real time where buses are relative to their location, next bus estimated arrival time, seat availability, and give riders the ability to provide feedback of their experience.”
As we see more and more with electric vehicles, these will save the airport and ACE Parking money.
“With decreased down-time and economic efficiency of electricity, the San Diego International Airport will save up to nearly $20,000 a year, per vehicle vs LPG or CNG vehicles. Additionally, these buses will enhance the rider and driver experience,” said Kevin Hernandez, Managing Director of ground transportation for ACE Parking in San Diego. “The incredibly quiet and smooth ride will lead to decreased driver fatigue, and riders will enjoy a more serene experience onboard.”
Do these electric shuttle buses look amazing? No. Will they cut a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions? For sure. Are they deceivingly smart and on the cutting edge? It sure seems like it.
Looking at what is being offered here and seeing the projection for $20,000 a year in savings, it’s hard to imagine this electric shuttle solutions wouldn’t be an extremely competitive option at many other airports. Some benefits of a shuttle bus when it comes to electrification are that they have clear, regular routes; they have to stop for a bit at specific stops to pick up passengers, where they could easily be plugged in and suck up electrons for the next leg of the shuttle services; close to continuous services means the shuttles should travel many miles in a year, and the more miles a vehicle travels, the more quickly the operational savings lead to net savings for the shuttle operator.
Images courtesy of Endera
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