Sea-Tac Airport pushes to be first with all-electric ground vehicles

SEATAC, Wash. — Sea-Tac Airport is on its way to becoming the first in the nation with all-electric ground vehicles.  The plan is to save 1 million gallons of fuel per year.  And now, other cities and airports are taking notice.

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KIRO 7 got exclusive tarmac access to see how they work and what makes the effort unique.  Alaska Airlines led the way at Sea-Tac Airport in the effort to make all ground vehicles electric in 2012.  Those are the pushback tractors, belt loaders and bag tugs you see zipping around the tarmac.

After Alaska Airlines went electric, Sea-Tac Airport officials had the idea to be the first in the nation to electrify the entire tarmac.  All the airlines agreed.

“When they have a piece of equipment about to retire it makes sense to replace it with electric,” Sea-Tac Climate Protection Program Manager Stephanie Meyn said.  “So even if the cost may be a little more they can recoup that cost in about a year.”

As of Thursday, February 1, they're about halfway done installing the 576 charging locations with new technology.

“The system is actually a smart system that it knows how low a battery is on a particular piece of equipment,” she said.  “And it can decide how to preferentially charge.”

The vehicles typically charge overnight or when not in use.  Sea-Tac estimates once all airlines upgrade to electric ground vehicles, it will save $2.8 million in airline fuel costs and 10,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Other cities are taking notice.

“We've had a few tours we've given to other airports that are interested in what we've done and how we've initiated it,” Meyn said.  “So, it's really challenging to do this airport wide. To make sure you have the space in the infrastructure and that you even have enough power at your terminals.”

Sea-Tac puts in all the infrastructure, and the airlines upgrade their vehicles.  The charging stations cost the airport about $31 million with $8.5 million coming from federal grants.

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