WestJet showcased its electric baggage tug yesterday â€“ the first of its kind in the world. The airline chose Earth Day to show off the tug, which runs on rechargeable lithium polymer batteries.
The tug can transport baggage to and from approximately 11 flights per day on a single charge.
As part of a pilot project, the airline worked alongside Corvus Energy, a Richmond, B.C.-based technology company, to re-engineer the tug to remove the need for any fossil fuel to power the equipment. The tug successfully performed in frigid temperatures, without incident, throughout the winter.
"Implementing this new technology is a key part of our ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability," said Cam Kenyon, WestJet executive vice-president of operations. "As an airline, we believe in investing in new ideas that will help keep our maintenance and fuel costs low, which in turn allows us to continue to deliver low fares and high value to our guests."
Brent Perry, chief executive officer of Corvus Energy said the integration of the companyâ€™s battery system into the equipment represented â€œa tremendous validation of our technology.â€
Airlines have wanted to improve electric units for many years, said Perry. "To date, our solution is the only battery technology that requires no maintenance, works in extreme cold or hot temperatures, as well as charging faster and outlasting the incumbent technology. It represents a major advance in the aviation industry with massive market potential."
In May, two electric baggage tugs will arrive in Whitehorse for the launch of daily service to the area, which begins May 17. The airline expects the technology to be effective in the Yukon's cold weather temperatures where lead-acid batteries are prone to freezing and cannot be recharged once frozen, and where gas-powered tugs are not permitted in the airport's ground-level baggage areas.
The first dawn-to-dusk trans-Canada flight was completed by J.H. Tudhop and J.D. Hunter in July 1937. The journey, between Montreal and Vancouver, took the pair 17 hours and 35 minutes. www.canadiangeographic.ca