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ACE Leads the Charge to Go Green at San Diego International Airport

January 6, 2022

Keith Jones

With all the recent worldwide attention regarding climate change and how to mitigate its effects on our planet, ACE is proud to be a proven leader in our parking and mobility industry on this very topic for decades. By way of example, ACE has been the trusted partner and operator of the San Diego International Airport’s complex parking and shuttle system for over 30+ years. 


Nearly a decade ago, the San Diego International Airport challenged ACE to study, find and implement an environmentally-focused and sustainable parking and shuttle operation. 


In 2018, the newly completed Terminal Two parking garage received the highly coveted distinction of LEAD Gold certification, as well as a ParkSmart certification. ParkSmart is the world’s only certification program that defines, measures, and recognizes high-performing, sustainable garages. This was a significant endeavor achieving this level of classification, and could only be done with a dynamic partnership between ACE and the San Diego International Airport leadership team.


Next, ACE and the San Diego International Airport focused on the shuttle fleet and operation. The goal was simple yet aggressive: to take the leap from near-zero alternative fuel to full zero-emission shuttles by going electric. This meant transitioning 38 Propane Autogas (LPG) shuttles to 29 all battery electric shuttles, making San Diego International Airport the largest single all-electric shuttle fleet at an airport in the United States at the time. 


This would also get ACE and the San Diego International Airport compliant with the coming mandates for Zero Emission Vehicles in Service in California dictated by the California Air Resource Board well before and far surpassing the thresholds established for 2027. As such, in 2017, ACE’s shuttle division leadership began the search for the next shuttle fleet for the San Diego International Airport. 


It was a challenging endeavor considering the size and scope of the routes, which included: remote long term parking shuttling, inter terminal shuttling, remote economy parking lot shuttling, and the largest part being remote employee lot shuttling. Therefore, the fleet desired would need to meet the high mileage, high capacity demands of the day-to-day operation. With that in mind, the ACE team went to work.


After over a year of exploring what technologies were available on the market, three things became very clear: that the process of going electric would be difficult, it could prove expensive, and that ultimately it is the right choice for the San Diego International Airport. With a full grasp of the costs and technological offerings, ACE’s leadership team presented multiple options to our partners at the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority (SDCRAA), and ultimately Endera was selected as the partner to electrify the future San Diego International Airport fleet. 


Endera was selected in large part since they were the first provider that presented a wholistic approach to fleet electrification and worked closely with leading industry suppliers (such as Lightning eMotors who provide the drivetrain for Endera’s gen 1 fleet) to build their shuttles. They also were flexible and worked closely with ACE’s executive team to provide a complete plan not just around the electric vehicles, but also around charging infrastructure, energy management, telematics, and finally, financing and grants. 


By working together with ACE’s leadership team, Endera was able to secure grants to help offset over 30 percent of the total cost of procuring and implementing the 29-unit EV shuttle fleet by leveraging the HVIP voucher grant program offered by the California Air Resources Board. The grant funding amounted to well over $3.2 million in funds to offset the total cost of the implementation of the vehicles and charging infrastructure. 


ACE also aided the SDCRAA in procuring an additional 4 Proterra fully electric transit buses at almost 50 percent off via an FAA Zero Emission Vehicle grant which was applied for by the SDCRAA staff with the support and counsel of the ACE’s management team. In total, the electrification of the San Diego International Airport fleet secured well over $5.2M in grants to help support the goal of zero-emissions without the exorbitant costs. 


In addition to providing the shuttles and chargers, Endera also provided a leading-edge charging management software system, along with a purpose-built onboard telematics and GPS dispatch system that ACE operational personnel can use for management of the fleet, and customers can access for transparent real time shuttle information. The Charging infrastructure selected will be able to charge an electric shuttle anywhere from 2-4 hours depending on state of charge. 


Energy management will allow the operators to reduce charging costs by managing peak load charging and taking advantage of lower electrical rates to better realize value. And finally, the shuttles will be able to integrate with paperless pre-tripping and service ticketing. They will leverage technologies like Zonar, and Lytx drivecam to prevent misuse of vehicles by documenting driver performance on areas like speeding, sudden stops and swerving, which results in a safer, better customer experience while increasing the fleet’s performance by increasing range per charge while lowering maintenance cost.


The true success of the electric fleet is the environmental impact that operating an all-electric shuttle fleet 24/7/365 will have on the San Diego Community. By going from Propane Autogas (LPG) shuttles to battery electric shuttles (EV) it represents a 57 percent total reduction in CO2 emissions across the entire 29 shuttle fleet. This quantifies as 4,308,004 lbs. of CO2 removed from the air around SAN, which equates to 425 passenger cars taken off the road annually or 89,750 trees planted annually!


ACE’s electric shuttle journey reached a major milestone on November 1, 2021, with the successful implementation of the electric shuttles to live action operations by restarting the employee parking lot for the first time in the post-COVID era -- to great reviews and happy riders. The process of electrifying your fleet is not an easy endeavor, especially at scale. However, the impact it has on your community by providing cleaner air from the tailpipe (by doing away with a tailpipe entirely!) far exceeds and justifies the process for seeking and supporting clean transportation moving forward. 


Since beginning the process of electrification at San Diego International Airport, ACE has successfully implemented a second fleet of 6 all-electric shuttles at a corporate campus client in La Jolla, California, and soon will be implementing two more shuttles at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in 2022. 


Keith Jones is the CEO of Ace Parking. He can be reached at kjones@aceparking.com



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