Mith an Airbus A321 Neo from Lufthansa, the Goldhofer Phoenix E has an easy job. The battery-electric aircraft tow tractor from the Memmingen-based manufacturer, which Lufthansa Engineering and Operational Services (Leos) has been using in Frankfurt am Main since the beginning of the year, can move aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of up to 352 tons. The A321 Neo, which served as a load for the newcomer in mid-March on its first public appearance, only weighs up to 97 tons.
After two prototypes and a demonstration vehicle, the Frankfurt Phoenix E is the first production vehicle that Goldhofer has handed over to the customer. The Lufthansa Group plans to use the electric tow tractor for eight years at Germany’s largest airport – as is the case for all aircraft tow tractors in the 21-vehicle fleet at the site, which also includes two aircraft tow tractors with hybrid drives. The second battery tow tractor will probably follow later this year.
At first glance, the vehicle, which has a power output of up to 240 kilowatts (220 kW continuous output), hardly differs from the towbarless aircraft tractors of this size class, which are equipped with a diesel engine. Only the quiet operating noise makes it clear that there is no combustion engine working in the tractor with the top-heavy silhouette and the horseshoe-shaped rear. The advantages in operation are also the same: The electric tow tractor maneuvers its tail around the nose wheel of the jet, grabs it with a hydraulic gripper, lifts it and can then pull the aircraft at up to 32 km/h (in Frankfurt, however, the maximum is only 25 km /h allowed) move over the apron.
The weight of 17 tons also corresponds to the diesel variant, although Leos in Frankfurt opted for the version of the Phoenix E with the largest installed battery capacity, in this case 165 kWh. The vehicle is charged with electricity from renewable energies at an ABB station with a charging capacity of 40 kW and 50 kW.
The tractor’s modular battery system with a nominal voltage of 665 volts comes from the Darmstadt-based manufacturer Akasol. The lithium-ion battery packs are installed on the left side of the vehicle and on the front, while Goldhofer has installed the hydraulic system, among other things, on the right. The drive motor comes from Aradex in the Black Forest, it transfers its power to the asphalt via the driven steering axle.
Lufthansa does not use the Phoenix E in Frankfurt for the classic pushback business when pushing the aircraft back at the gate, because the airport operator Fraport takes care of this for almost all machines. Instead, the tug completes comparatively long tours between parking positions, maintenance hangars and gates. Especially when maneuvering the aircraft into the gigantic workshops, it is pleasantly noticeable that the electric tow tractor works locally emission-free. In total, the machine does around 20 tours a day, and consumption is then a good 300 kWh. Therefore, it is recharged between trips.
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