An Economic & Environmental Analysis of the JetBlue Airways Ground Support Vehicles: A Proposed Implementation of a Cleaner-Burning Fleet

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Date

2015-04-23

Authors

Lindenfeld, Sara
Tran, Michelle

Advisors

Golden, Jay

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Abstract

JetBlue Airways Corporation, a Fortune 500 company based in New York City, is an airline that services 87 destinations across the U.S., Caribbean, and Latin America. From 2010 to 2014, JetBlue has made its overall operations increasingly more energy efficient, resulting in an 8.3% decline in greenhouse gas emissions intensity ratio (metric tons CO2-eq per 1,000 revenue ton miles flown), which has also saved the company millions of dollars in operating costs. As JetBlue continues to enhance its efforts to couple sustainability with economic value, a logical next step was to evaluate JetBlue’s ground fleet for potential improvement. Our analysis focused on ground support operations at JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York. Responsible for 13,800 metric tons of CO2-eq emissions, the function of ground support equipment (GSE) vehicles is to service the aircraft between flights. Our study included the three most used vehicle types—bag tug, belt loader, and push back tug—as they offered the largest opportunity for savings. Our study explored the economic and environmental opportunities associated with replacing current gasoline and diesel-powered GSE vehicles with electric vehicles, also called eGSE. This report first provides background on JetBlue Airways, its environmental impacts, and the airline’s sustainability program. It provides general emissions trends within the transportation sector before narrowing in on ground vehicles, where it details their specific function and describes emissions standards that apply to off-road GSE. The report then details the first step within our analysis in which we review JetBlue-provided GSE data, including a system-wide inventory and ground fuel expenditures dataset by airport. This report summarizes this data by describing the composition of JetBlue’s JFK ground vehicles by function, quantity, and energy inputs. We then consider energy reduction strategies for the GSE fleet by describing available alternative fuel sources and evaluating relevant efforts by other airlines and airports. The next stage of our analysis consisted of interviews with JetBlue employees and associated business partners and stakeholders, whose commentary and feedback have been integrated into the report. Data was also recorded on the ground at JFK to better understand the operation and retrieve accurate daily vehicle usage data. In the final stage of the analysis, all data was synthesized into a model that estimated how much gasoline or diesel the average bag tug, belt loader, and push back tug is using, as well as how much JetBlue spends per vehicle in powering it annually. Based off data from a GSE manufacturer, we calculated what the energy costs savings would be if all vehicles would run off of electricity instead of gasoline or diesel. Lastly, we modeled eight scenarios in which JetBlue would change a portion of their fleet to electric, and for each scenario the model projected fuel costs and emissions savings. Page | 2 Based on the incentives described in this report, we recommend the following for JetBlue’s GSE fleet at JFK:

  1. Pursue push back electrification secondary to bag tug and belt loader
  2. Launch pilot to test 1 charger, 2 belt loaders, and 1 bag tug at JFK
  3. Apply for the FAA’s Voluntary Airport Low Emissions Program (VALE) funding
  4. Set goal of 20% electric bag tugs and belt loaders in 3-year period (by 2019), replacing vehicles as they retire. In a worst case scenario where JetBlue receives no funding and pays the higher cost for all new vehicles instead of refurbished, JetBlue will save roughly $1.7 million and 36,500 metric tons of CO2-eq emissions across a 14-year timeline.
  5. Set goal of 50% electric belt loaders and bag tugs in a 7-year period (by 2023), replacing vehicles as they retire. In a worst case scenario where JetBlue receives no funding and pays the higher cost for all new vehicles instead of refurbished, JetBlue will save roughly $4.3 million and 89,200 metric tons of CO2-eq emissions across a 14-year timeline.
  6. Research feasibility of retrofitting 100% electric belt loaders, bag tugs, and push backs, replacing vehicles are they retire. This can maximize the opportunity to save roughly $7 million in fuel costs (assuming funding is received) and over 60,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions over 14 years.

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Citation

Lindenfeld, Sara, and Michelle Tran (2015). An Economic & Environmental Analysis of the JetBlue Airways Ground Support Vehicles: A Proposed Implementation of a Cleaner-Burning Fleet. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/9629.


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.