The Ground Handling Blog

Mototok's blog for Hangar Professionals

Written by Mototok on August 8, 2016 // 5:20 PM

Here’s Why an Electric Aircraft Tug will Revolutionize Your Ground Handling


Let’s acknowledge it: Traditional aircraft tow tugs and trucks are uncomfortable beasts from the past, designed in the 80s or even 70s, with inconvenient, time consuming and high-risk needs for tie down winches, straps, adapters; the corresponding nose gear lift cradle reminiscent of a shovel – practically farm tractors on steroids. Still, they’re kept around for decades – they’ve been paid for, right?

Wrong. They don’t pay off in the long run. Here’s why.

Comparing electric aircraft tugs with traditional tow tractors is like comparing Terminator '84 to Transformers 5, but they’re much more than a cool gadget: An electric aircraft tug holds the potential to revolutionize ground handling operations. Let’s see why that is.

An electric aircraft tug saves time & money.

Electric motors come with powerful batteries that ensure long operating times and have a life expectancy that is almost exclusively restricted by its batteries and exceeds that of a traditional airplane tug by far. An electric motor doesn't require a transmission, oil system, or the same level of cooling system. It doesn't require a starter motor, alternator, or brake pad that are in constant use.

They require virtually no maintenance

  • No tooth belt or head gasket that needs replacing
  • No business interruption because someone forgot to turn off the vehicle’s lights
  • No failure-prone clutch
  • No oil changes
  • No universal joints that wear out
  • No air filters that need changing

Benefits of electric motors at a glance

  • Lower cost of operation due to longevity of the motor and low maintenance cost
  • High energy conversion efficiency (particularly important when operating in turndown mode)
  • Highly precise and smooth movement thanks to uninterrupted torque during the whole range of speed
  • Compact construction due to the comparatively smaller physical dimensions and ground of an electrical motor
  • Optimized energy cycle: the regenerative braking system feeds energy right back into the battery when the brakes are applied
  • Dynamic braking doesn’t wear down the brakes

Using an electric aircraft tug means reducing emission.

Even though fuel burn is no longer such an important issue in terms of cost, there are many reasons to cut down on your need for it: Regulatory pressures, quality of local air, global climate change concerns and the wish to act environmentally responsible are important points to be considered.

2% of global CO2 emission is emitted by airlines

Did you know that 2% of the global human emission of carbon dioxide is emitted by airlines? A total of 781 million tonnes in 2015. The world’s air transport industry has committed to cutting this output in half by 2050 – and there’s a long way to go.

Ground Support Equipment is part of the package & shouldn’t be underestimated

Ground Support Equipment should not be underestimated in reaching this common goal. As the TRB (Transporation Research Board) points out and based a research paper on:

“Increased levels of demand at airports (...) may result in a growth in airport ground support equipment (GSE) activity and an associated increase in airport surface emissions. (...) research is needed (...) to identify programs and best practices that could reduce GSE emissions for GSE owners, operators, and airports.”

One of the reduction options obviously is going electric – a joint initiative by Lufthansa Group and Fraport is expected to save around 1,500 tonnes of CO2 per year by 2020.

Airport Carbon Accreditation Program

A growing number of programs are looking to assess and reduce airport emissions, but the only independent and institutionally-endorsed global standard for carbon management at airports is the Airport Carbon Accreditation. Launched by European airports’ trade body ACI Europe in 2009 and administered by international consultancy agency WSP Environment, it provides airports with a common framework. The individual carbon footprints are verified in accordance with ISO 14064.

Olivier Jankovec, director general ACI Europe, comments during the global launch of the program in 2014:

“A significant part of the global airport industry is already actively addressing its carbon emissions – and they have mobilised on this, of their accord. They are proactively reporting on their carbon reduction activities every year and the number of airports is constantly growing too. An impressive 1.48 billion air passengers now travel through airports certified at one of the 4 levels of the programme.”

By now, 25 Airports in the Asia-Pacific region have been accredited, 92 in Europe, and a modest total of 6 in North America.

More actions to take besides updating your ground handling equipment you can find here.

An electric aircraft tug makes your work environment more user-friendly.

Electrical motors are quiet and don’t emit unsavoury exhaust fumes. They add to a work environment that is less polluted by noise and dirt.

According to the World Health Association (WHO), noise pollution is one of the biggest risks in modern life:

“Excessive noise seriously harms human health (...) It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour.”

Airports and hangars are stressful places to work already – ground support equipment shouldn’t add to the overall discomfort.

An electric aircraft tug can be used anywhere.

Being emission-free, electric aircraft tugs can be used safely on the tarmac and inside the hangar without violating regulations or endangering personnel.

The most advanced come with revolutionary technology.

Electric aircraft tugs have been on the market for a comparatively short amount of time, and the most advanced sport technology that can be truly revolutionary: For instance, remote controlled electric airplane tugs require no tow bar or physical strength and prevent collisions between aircraft and hangar rash. And that’s not the end of it.

For the time being, “products all have a human operator in the loop, but the next generation of the technology could someday become autonomous. Researchers from NASA, Lockheed Martin, Carnegie Mellon University and UC Santa Cruz published a paper this year describing how self-driving aircraft towing vehicles could revolutionize airport management and ground operations and handling in the commercial sector”, says Collin Krum on aviation blog Flightclub Jalopnik.


Mototok is at the forefront of designing highly innovative electric aircraft tugs. We produce aircraft tugs with the quickest ROI – industry wide. Find out more here.


Electric aircraft tugs aren’t just another high end gadget shoved in the buyer’s face. The best of them are state of the art high tech machines that can and will make life easier and procedures more sustainable for MROs, FBOs, and private operators.


With competition and financial pressure getting stronger, you simply have to improve your workflow. And you have to keep improving. Let us help you with that.

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