Kalmar Motor, the aircraft tractor specialist, has awarded Saft a contract to supply a lithium-ion battery system for the first hybrid electric tractor suitable for wide body aircraft. The contract for the TBL 800 Hybrid—shortly to be trialed at one of Germany’s leading airports—represents a significant entry by Saft into the airport ground-handling sector.
|TBL-800 Hybrid. Click to enlarge.
This sector is both fast growing, with the world’s airports serving more than 5.7 billion passengers in 2012—up by 4.4% on 2011—and is also facing new challenges in providing energy efficient and low emission operations.
Ground handling tractors enable large aircraft to be moved from their hangars to the passenger gate, as well as for the pushback to prepare for taxiing to the runway. Total reliability, round the clock, every day of the year and in all weather conditions is crucial, since the operation has to be completed within a very tight window of only around 20 minutes, and any delay can disrupt flight schedules.
Kalmar Motor was the pioneer of the TBL towbarless tractor concept. It is now developing a new generation hybrid TBL 800 suitable for even large wide body aircraft, such as the double-decker Airbus 380, that will enable airports to cut their use of diesel-driven tractors to address growing demands for reduced environmental emissions.
The high energy storage provided by the Saft Li-ion battery system will fully power the TBL 800’s electric drive throughout its shift, from early morning to late at night. The fast-recharging capability offered by the Li-ion battery makes this possible by facilitating regenerative braking as well as charging during break periods when it is not in use. For total security, the TBL 800 is also fitted with a diesel unit that cuts in to charge the battery before it is fully discharged, ensuring that the vehicle can never be stranded.