Heathrow to ‘Go Electric’
18 / 01 / 2016
Heathrow hosts more than 80 airlines, 300 service providers and 76,500 employees each day. It is one of the country’s biggest ports, handling a quarter of the UK’s exports by value, and sees 1.5m tonnes of freight travel through it each year.
A large operation like this requires big environmental ambitions, particularly when it comes to addressing the source of local air pollution –road vehicles. Heathrow wants to not only be the best connected airport in the world and among the best cargo airports in Europe, but also the most environmentally responsible hub.
Heathrow’s multi-million pound investments in reducing emissions from aircraft on the ground, lower road vehicle pollution and improve public transport have already played a key part in reducing overall emissions around the airport by 16% over five years.
Heathrow’s cargo community has already started to maximise efficiencies by pooling some of their handling equipment. Heathrow will continue this good work by ensuring cars or small vans owned or leased by the airport are electric or plug-in hybrid by 2020. The airport will also use telematics information and work with the cargo community to maximise the efficient use of cargo vehicles in airside areas.
Heathrow kicked off 2016 with a £2m investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, to help shift greater numbers of vehicles used on and around the airport to electric power. Airside, Heathrow’s ramp safety team exclusively use electric vehicles and the airport hosts more than 800 electric baggage tugs, a fleet that’s amongst Europe’s largest.
While the airport has had some success – there is work still to do. Over 8,500 vehicles are in use airside at Heathrow, a large proportion of which are outside the airport’s direct control as they operated by third parties.
To influence companies to make more sustainable choices and reduce their vehicle emissions, the airport established Heathrow’s Clean Vehicles Partnership ten years ago. Through this partnership, annual emissions of the airside vehicle fleet have been reduced by approximately 3,000 tonnes of CO2 (9% decrease) and 74 tonnes of NOx (28% decrease) over 5 years.
Heathrow is also leading the way in investing in new technology. Working in partnership with Air Products, Heathrow opened the UK’s first publically accessible hydrogen fuelling station in 2012, which is helping to encourage hydrogen fuel cell vehicles into London.
As part of London’s bid for the Go Ultra Low City Scheme to provide rapid charging infrastructure for electric taxis, hybrid HGVs and electric buses, Heathrow has committed to trial alternative fuelled HGV’s through its consolidation centres for retail and construction, which already reduce the number of vehicle deliveries to the airport. Heathrow will explore how this technology can be used in the cargo supply chain alongside tools and processes to reduce empty running or less-than-full loads.
Heathrow also leads the way in centralising all of its ground service equipment to reduce it by as much as 40%, and modernise the fleet at the same time. The airport is working to convert much of the ground service equipment fleet to electric drive — the replacement of high loaders is currently being explored.
Working in partnership with freight and cargo operators will be integral to achieving the airport’s commitment to play its part in improving local air quality and reducing carbon emissions. After all, servicing, deliveries and cargo operations alone generate 12,500 vehicle movements a day in the Heathrow area.
The airport is acting to improve operational efficiencies for freight vehicles by providing off-airport distribution centres, putting plans in place to monitor local roads to help its freight partners avoid peak periods and ensuring licencing of vehicles airside is tied to the age and emissions of freight vehicles.
While it is undoubtedly challenging for such a large-scale operation, with its myriad partners, individuals and demands, to operate sustainably, Heathrow is challenging itself and its airport partners to make ambitious change. What’s more, the airport believes there is a major opportunity to be had through expansion.
Should the UK government grant approval for an additional runway at Heathrow, the investment would enable a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the airport to transform into one of the most environmentally responsible in the world.