Navigating the future

ICF’s Eliot Lees and Chris Watson consider some of the key issues airports should take into account when planning for the electrification of their fleet of ground support vehicles and equipment.

As airports seek to reduce their carbon footprint and align with environmental goals, transitioning to electric vehicles is not just an ethical choice, it is also a strategic one.

Many of the world’s airports have, of course, established decarbonisation targets, but now comes the harder part – implementation.

Airports typically have a broad range of on and off-road vehicles and equipment. These have traditionally been powered by gasoline, but times are changing, and as many vehicles and truck fleets reach the end of their effective lifecycles, airports may consider switching to electric vehicles (EV).

However, the transition to an electric fleet requires careful planning and consideration of various elements to ensure a seamless transition.

This is something ICF has experience of doing as we have worked with many public and private entities on EV fleet planning and implementation. Indeed, on behalf of various electric utility companies, ICF provides fleet electrification advisory services to their public and private customers, including airports.

Through our fleet advisory engagements, ICF has identified key areas that airports should take into account when planning for fleet electrification.

Further external information that is important, is to know what EV alternatives are available today, but also have a good idea about the capabilities of future EV alternatives and a realistic timeline as to when they will be introduced.

What are vehicle range and charging requirements?

Fleet managers understand the utilisation, capacity, and use-case specific requirements of their fleet and equipment; these are some of the requirements that impact the selection of electric alternatives to make sure the electrified version meets or exceeds the required range and capabilities of the replaced vehicle.

These requirements also drive selection of appropriate charging stations for the new fleet and equipment. Speed of charging is a key consideration. Fast charging options can minimise downtime but incur a higher cost up front to procure and install.

What are the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) implications?

Understanding the total cost of ownership is vital for making informed decisions about the integration of electric vehicles into an airport’s corporate fleet.

While the upfront cost of electric vehicles may be higher than their conventional counterparts, the long-term operational savings can offset these initial expenses.

Factors such as federal, state, and utility incentives, maintenance costs, and the cost of electricity versus traditional fuel should all be considered when calculating the TCO of electric vehicles. An airport should know the total financial and economic costs and impacts of fleet transition, but also on a vehcile by vehicle basis, to be able to make the most effective and informed decisions.

What is the environmental impact of your options and corporate social responsibility (CSR) implications?

Beyond economic considerations, electric vehicle fleet planning should align with an organisation’s commitment to environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

An airport should be able to quantify the GHG emission reduction that will result from EV fleet transition and how it will contribute to an airport’s efforts to be environmentally conscious. This alignment can enhance an airport’s reputation, attract environmentally conscious stakeholders, and contribute positively to its CSR goals.

Additionally, the European Union is currently implementing its Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the potential SEC requirements for Climate-Related Disclosures make understanding and measuring Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions important and valuable for public and private enterprises in the United States.

Scalability and future-proofing

As technology evolves, it is essential to consider the scalability and future-proofing of the chosen electric vehicles, infrastructure, network, and service providers. Investing in charging stations and vehicles that can adapt to emerging technologies and industry standards ensures that the fleet remains competitive and compliant with changing regulations over the long-term.

Data integration

Effective fleet management relies on accurate data and real-time monitoring. Integrating electric vehicles into an airport’s fleet may require advanced telematics systems that can provide insights into energy consumption, charging patterns, and overall vehicle performance. This data-driven approach allows fleet managers to optimise routes, monitor battery health, and identify areas for operational improvement.

Final thoughts

Airport electric vehicle fleet planning is a multi-faceted process that demands a holistic approach and both internal and external information sources.

By carefully considering elements such as infrastructure readiness, total cost of ownership, range and charging speed, vehicle selection, data integration, regulatory compliance, employee engagement, scalability, environmental impact, and collaboration with stakeholders, airports can pave the way for a successful and sustainable transition to electric vehicles.

In doing so, airports not only contribute to the global effort to combat climate change but also position themselves as leaders in the evolving landscape of environmentally responsible business practices.

EV fleet planning at Massport

On behalf of the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), ICF developed an EV fleet assessment for Boston Logan Airport, Hanscom Field, Worcester Airport and each of Massport’s Port operations to evaluate the economic and GHG benefits of switching on and off-road vehicles to EVs as well as recommended the charging infrastructure that will be needed to support EV operation.

We reviewed more than 1,000 individual asset – age and condition and made specific recommendations regarding car, light/medium/heavy duty truck and off-road vehicle replacement, cost, timing, reduction in emissions, and cost savings over time.

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