Aircraft tractors are often in the shadows of the many times larger vessels they are towing. Still, the work they do is necessary for airport procedures to function. Kalmar Motor, one of the world’s leading manufacturers, has now developed a range of electric and hybrid tractors able to move aircraft of all sizes.

”Our company, Kalmar Motor, was hived off from Kalmar Verkstad. We started out manufacturing platform trucks for the railway, but eventually got the opportunity to develop aircraft tractors for SAS and others. Today, our product range consists of four models of aircraft tractors. We are one the world’s leading manufacturers, and we have become a technology leader. We are especially excited about our new, environmentally friendly electric and hybrid drive vehicles”, says Magnus Johansson, one of the Kalmar Motor partners.

5 percent diesel and 95 percent electricity

Kalmar Motor has developed a range of new electric and hybrid towbarless tractors with accessibility equivalent to that of conventional diesel drives, but with emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants far below those of combustion engines. Operating costs are low, also.

“The airport personnel can tow the aircraft quickly and carefully using electrical power. During deceleration the electric motors function as generators charging the batteries, transforming the aircraft’s moving mass into energy; you could say that the aircraft generates free battery charging. The powertrain is completely electric and the diesel engine will charge the batteries when needed. This means that full power is available at all times, regardless of the percentage charged. While at rest, they can also be recharged through an electric power line. The TBL Hybrids are equipped with the latest generation Lithium-ion batteries, and in combination with the small diesel engine, the TBL Hybrids can basically be used continously”, Magnus says.

A cost reducing tool

“The engine efficiency is higher, and electricity costs less than diesel. The electric drive also reduces maintenance costs, thanks to less oil usage and fewer maintenance stops. In addition to this, many airports have limits regarding green house gas emission, and in some cases have to pay for emission rights. All in all, the TBL Hybrid is a both profitable and environmental friendly choice”, Magnus Johansson says.

Monster tractor for the world’s largest aircraft

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The new TBL 800 is the first ever hybrid tractor on the market that can handle wide body aircraft. It can even tow the Airbus A380: the world’s largest aircraft, capable of carrying 900 passengers. The front wheel of the TBL 800 has a diameter of 180 centimeters, and the price tag says 10 million SEK.

“Hopefully, the product will open up new markets. The first TBL 800 has been delivered to the Frankfurt Airport where it will be used to move the Airbus 380. Aircraft tractors of that size are not needed at that many airports in Europe, but we think the prospects are better in Asia and the US”, Magnus Johansson says.

The article was published in May 2016.