At the beginning of 2016, Brussels Airport decided, in consultation with users – airlines and handlers - to take over passenger transport on the tarmac from handling agents Swissport and Aviapartner. The airport’s goal is zero-emission passenger transport and greater passenger comfort.
This €13 million investment is an important step towards realizing one of our environmental targets: emit 40% less CO2 by 2030 (compared to 2010).
Today, the buses that take passengers to the aircraft on the tarmac are still diesel buses. Brussels Airport looked for an eco-friendly alternative and found inspiration at Schiphol Airport − where 35 electric buses are already in service.
Koen De Cleyn, Project Manager at Brussels Airport: “We were pleasantly surprised by our visit to Schiphol. The e-buses are doing really well there.” Convinced by this experience, Brussels Airport issued a European tender for 30 e-buses. Of the 6 candidate suppliers, Build Your Dreams (BYD) made the best proposal. The electric vehicles will be put into service in 2019.
Why are we changing from diesel to electricity? To save the environment. The short distances and numerous stops make it difficult for a diesel engine to warm up. And that causes a lot of exhaust gases. “The electric buses do not emit CO2,” says Koen. “As a result, our total emissions will decrease by 600 tonnes per year. Moreover, there will be hardly any particulate matter. And yet another advantage: the e-vehicles drive over the tarmac almost noiselessly.”
Our CO2 emissions will drop by 600 tonnes per year
The new buses offer passengers additional comfort and lots of new extras, such as a low entry step, free Wi-Fi and USB stations for charging smartphones. Koen: “Inside, 3 LCD screens display useful information for our passengers, concerning baggage claim and connecting flights. And large LED displays with flight information are mounted on the outside, so that everyone gets on the right bus.”
Thirty electric buses require thirty charging points − which are being installed in a new depot, where they are connected to green electricity. In just 3 hours, a bus is fully charged − and then it can travel about 150 kilometres.
Koen: “The power decreases over time, but for 10 years the buses will be able to travel at least 80 kilometres when their battery is fully charged, even in scorching heat and bitter cold. Given that an airport bus averages only 12 kilometres per day, we won’t have to charge the buses very often. But when that is necessary, we’ll do it outside our energy peak hours, so that we don’t burden the electricity grid.”
The drivers are trained in energy-efficient driving techniques.
The distance that an e-bus can travel with a full battery depends on the driver’s driving style. The more smoothly they drive, the more kilometres are covered.
In any case, the tarmac has a speed limit of 30 km/hour, which is favourable for the battery’s life. Koen: “Plus, the drivers are trained in energy-efficiently driving techniques. And because such an e-bus is full of sensors − everything is measured − we can monitor whether they are actually applying them.”
What is new is that the electric buses are owned by Brussels Airport. “The current diesel buses are not under our management,” says Koen. “The external handlers arrange bus transport for the airlines. For some time, there has been a request for the buses to be managed by the airport.”
30 buses ... is that enough for all the passengers? “Thirty buses are sufficient under normal circumstances. During peak periods, a number of conventional buses will also have to be deployed. Although you can take ‘conventional’ with a grain of salt: the airport is busy investigating which fuel is the most eco-friendly − natural gas or a hybrid form, for instance.”