Airport Electric Shuttle Fleet Reinforces Environmental Message

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The much-awarded Indianapolis International Airport is making headlines in sustainability once again by launching the nation’s largest electric airport shuttle bus fleet. Several shuttles are already in use in time for the holidays, with at least nine expected to be traversing the airport campus by mid-2018.

Travelers who use the shuttle buses to make the trip from the Indianapolis airport’s economy parking lot to the terminal can now experience a much quieter ride, thanks to the expanding fleet of electric vehicles. Already home to the world’s largest airport solar energy farm, Indianapolis International is replacing its diesel shuttles with quieter, smoother-riding electric ones.

According to Airport Authority Executive Director Mario Rodriguez, $3.6 million in federal Zero Emissions Vehicle grants makes the switch possible while also lowering the cost of operating individual shuttles by a whopping 85 percent. He says additional grant monies expected in 2018 should bring the fleet to a total of 13 by 2019.

Rodriguez says the move shows the airport’s commitment to good stewardship at a time when the facility continues to garner attention with repeated best-of awards. He adds that demonstrating that such stewardship can be achieved in an intelligent and financially feasible way sets a good example for other public facilities around the country.

The Indianapolis Airport Authority (IAA) worked with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to champion the specific electric shuttles now in use. As an innovative recycling concept, the 35-foot bus chassis are remanufactured from retired diesel shuttles to like-new condition and retrofitted with electric power. Windows, doors, seats and latches are replaced and upgraded. Rodriguez calls building brand new buses on proven, rehabilitated chassis another “environmental positive.”

Airport officials point out that the move to electric shuttles will reduce the airport’s carbon footprint by 15 million pounds, replacing 66,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually. Fiscally, the fleet should save about $2 million in operating and maintenance costs over the projected 10-year life of the buses.

The airport isn’t being shy about pointing out the new electric vehicles. Prominent signage on both the shuttles and the shuttle stops announces to all travelers that the new mode is environmentally friendly. And there’s no hiding or disguising the bus charging stations. They are brightly marked and intentionally visible as guests exit the parking garage.

Rodriguez believes the airport’s environmental sustainability efforts send an important message, one that’s echoed by Indianapolis tech firms and other businesses.

“It says to future partners, anyone who wants to do business with the city, that they’ll find the highest levels of technology and environmental awareness. You don’t have to go to the coasts, we have everything right here in the Midwest, and we’re showcasing it with our gateway to the community.”

Executive Director of the Indianapolis Airport Authority Mario Rodriguez explains how the airport's environmental program provides value to the city.