The Role of Airport Ground Vehicles in Achieving Net Zero Aviation

In 2022, the aviation industry accounted for about 2% of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. That number rose from 2021, and carbon emissions for aviation have grown faster in recent decades than emissions for other types of transport (rail, road, and shipping).

The Role of Airport Ground Vehicles in Achieving Net Zero Aviation

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced its commitment to change that math. The IATA recently announced its Fly Net Zero program, which seeks to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

With around 300 members, the IATA is the trade and standards group for the world’s airlines. The association’s Fly Net Zero program will rely on incremental improvements in aircraft technology, which are expected to drive a 15-25% improvement in fuel efficiency over the next 20 years. 

Eventually, “radical new propulsion technologies" are expected to replace traditional jet engines — including, in part, hybrid-electric propulsion systems that limit reliance on fossil fuels.

But while airplane engines and carbon offsets are pieces of the puzzle, they’re not the only source of carbon emissions in airports: Ground vehicles contribute to the problem, and over the next 30 years, they’ll be a substantial part of the solution. 

More Airlines Will Rely on Electric Vehicles for Ground Support

Many airlines have already invested heavily in electric vehicles (EVs) as part of long-term strategies to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Those efforts can be powerful for public relations — and can make some airports eligible for FAA sustainability programs, which include reduction initiatives 

EV Charger Pedestal and Cable Management Kits

for ground-based greenhouse gas emissions.

For airlines interested in sustainability, ground-based vehicles provide a clear opportunity for improvement. In April 2023, Delta announced that its core ground support equipment fleet at Salt Lake City International Airport was nearly 100% electric. 

"Flying represents about 98% of Delta’s carbon emissions, and while we continue work to drastically reduce that impact – Delta saved more than 10 million gallons of fuel in 2022 alone – we are working throughout our business to embed sustainability in everything we do," Delta Chief Sustainability Officer Pam Fletcher said in a press release.

Other airlines and airports have taken similar steps. Munich Airport is aiming for a fully electric-powered fleet by 2023; the airport has taken steps to expand its charging infrastructure to accommodate new all-electric baggage tugs, passenger boarding bridges, lifters, and other specialized EVs.

New EV Infrastructure Will Support the Carbon-Neutral Airports of the Future

Electric airport ground vehicles will require new fleet-charging solutions for power. Airport operators who wish to decarbonize their ground vehicles must plan for this charging infrastructure in the early stages of the transition.  

The good news is that we have strong models for EV infrastructure; electric forklifts have been around for well over 100 years, and the material handling industry offers plenty of solutions to the challenges that come with charging electric industrial vehicles. EV Charger Cable Retractors

In fact, the new generation of electric airport ground vehicles require less maintenance, space, and expertise than your standard forklift battery room. EV charging stations can be incredibly compact. By mounting multiple chargers on a single, compact stand — such as an EV Charger Pedestal — airport operators can charge multiple vehicles in a small space. Cable Management Kits, meanwhile, provide convenient access to charging connectors while keeping cables organized and safely out of traffic lanes. And integrated EV Charger Pedestals and Cable Management Kits make for quick installations in any new fleet-charging system.  

Such advances in EV charging infrastructure can help simplify the transition to an all-electric ground vehicle fleet — which will play an important part in the shift to carbon-neutral aviation.   

To discuss custom EV charging infrastructure for your airport ground vehicles, contact BHS at 1.800.247.9500.