InnovaTek, a Richland research and development firm, received an award from the Department of Energy to create a fuel cell range extender for battery-powered airport ground support equipment. The $150,000 grant from the Small Business Innovation Research program is aimed at determining the feasibility of the technology to meet the needs of airlines and ground handling companies to reduce emissions and fuel costs.
“The technology will facilitate the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable fuels for airport ground service equipment thereby improving environmental conditions at airports and their locals as well as improving energy security and sustainability for airport operations," said Dr. Patricia Irving, InnovaTek’s CEO and principal investigator on the project.
InnovaTek will collaborate with JBT AeroTech, a ground service equipment manufacturer, and EnerFuel, a fuel cell developer, to create a modular electric power system for an airport cargo loader with an extended range of at least 10 hours of operation.
“When the development process is complete, this technology will have applications throughout the transportation industry, particularly in battery-powered vehicles that are used over extended periods of time before they can be recharged,” said Daniel Betts, EnerFuel’s director of business affairs.
Air quality is a serious issue at airports, especially in ramp areas where baggage and cargo handling takes place. Emissions, including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and particulates from combustion-powered vehicles negatively impact employees’ health. Additionally, a substantial percentage of airline and ground support costs go toward fueling and emission treatment systems, significantly impacting the price of air travel.
“Airlines and ground handling companies are facing ever-increasing pressure to reduce the level of emissions and fuel consumption from their operations because of the environmental impacts and costs,” said Nick Heemskerk, global product development manager at JBT AeroTech. “We are excited about the potential of an efficient battery electric power system for JBT’s equipment that has an extended range through integration with InnovaTek and EnerFuel’s technologies to meet these needs.”