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Electric Motors for Slashing Airline Costs

March 28, 2012 in Aviation, Electric Drive by rich  |  No Comments

Gibraltar-based WheelTug says that electric motors in the nose wheels of jetliners can allow them to move using neither main engines nor tugs, and can save airlines the equivalent of 6 to 7% of their fuel use.

The firm plans deploy the systems via existing aircraft retrofits beginning next year, thereby skinning its big-name competitors: multinational Honeywell and French landing gear manufacturer Safran announced plans for motors in jetliners’ main wheels at the Paris Air Show last year.

‘It’s not easy to package the elephant in the nosewheel,’ says WheelTug. But WheelTug says too that it has done so.

‘It’s not easy to package the elephant in the nosewheel,’ says WheelTug. But WheelTug says too that it has done so.

“We’re going to be in service next year and Safran and Honeywell are promising 2016,” says WheelTug CEO Isaiah Cox.

“They admit that they have technological hurdles they cannot solve yet,” Cox told F&F at the Electric Vehicles Land, Sea & Air USA conference in San Jose on March 27. “We admit no such thing because we’ve solved them all.”

The firm claims some 50 patents, including those pending.

Placing motors in the nosewheels, away from the brakes, Cox says, solves thermal issues.

Customers include El Al and Jet Airways on Boeing 737s, and Israir on Airbus A320s. “We currently have 215 aircraft orders, 195 in the last month,” Cox says. Letters of Intent will total 1,000 by July, he says.

The up-front cost to carriers? Nothing. “We give it to them for free,” Cox says, including spare parts. “No capital expenditure, not even for installation. In return for that, we split the savings 50-50.”

$500,000 to $800,000 Savings Per Year, Per Airplane

Cox predicts savings, per airplane, at $500,000 to $800,000 per year. Besides saving fuel (1 to 2% of an aircraft’s usage), the wheel motors can improve scheduling, eliminate tug costs (and damage), reduce the amount of fuel that needs to be carried (added weight that adds to fuel consumption), reduce break wear, and reduce engine operating hours, effectively extending maintenance intervals.

Retrofits, the company says, can be accomplished in just one day.WheelTug uses Chorus Meshcon motors from its Chorus Motors parent.

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