Japan Airlines uses world's first battery GPUs

Boeing 777-300ER (Photo: rJo).
Boeing 777-300ER (Photo: rJo).

Japan Airlines uses world's first battery GPUs

Boeing 777-300ER (Photo: rJo).
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In a landmark move for the aviation industry, Japan Airlines has introduced the world's first electric ground power units (eGPU) at Matsuyama Airport. This innovation, developed by Tokyo-based Tamagawa Aero, relies on lithium-ion batteries and promises significant reductions in CO2 emissions and noise pollution compared to traditional fossil fuel-powered generators.

Ground power units (GPUs) and auxiliary power units (APUs) are typically used to provide power to aircraft on the ground when their engines are not operating. These units provide the necessary energy for the aircraft's air conditioning and lighting while parked at the airport. Tamagawa Aero's new eGPU technology offers an environmentally friendly alternative by eliminating the use of diesel and other fossil fuels.

According to Japan Airlines, the new eGPUs reduce CO2 emissions to zero and reduce noise levels by approximately 30% compared to traditional GPUs and APUs, which corresponds to a noise level of less than 65 dB. These improvements not only help protect the environment, but also improve working conditions for ground staff and reduce noise pollution for residents around the airports.

Performance and commitment

The eGPUs can provide continuous power for approximately 14 orbits of a Boeing 737-800 sized aircraft on a full charge. Over 400 of these devices have already been ordered worldwide, reflecting the great interest and confidence in this technology.

Within the JAL Group, regional subsidiary Japan Air Commuter has rolled out the eGPU at seven airports, including Tanegashima, Yakushima, Kikaijima, Amami Oshima, Tokunoshima, Okinoerabujima and Yoron. Another subsidiary, Hokkaido Air, began using the eGPU at Sapporo Okadama, Rishiri and Okushiri airports in March 2024.

challenges and solutions

However, implementing eGPU technology requires appropriate charging infrastructure and reliable AC power sources to operate the devices efficiently. At Matsuyama Airport, this challenge was successfully overcome by retrofitting existing power outlets originally used for snow plow vehicle heaters. These adjustments now enable the eGPUs to operate and serve as a model for future installations at other airports.

Japan Airlines plans to use the lessons learned from previous deployments to advance the introduction of eGPUs at additional airports in Japan and possibly worldwide. This initiative is in line with the airline's efforts to reduce carbon emissions from its facilities and vehicles. This project is supported by the Civil Aviation Office of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

The introduction of the eGPU units is a significant step towards a more sustainable aviation industry. It shows how technological innovations can help minimize the environmental impact of air travel while increasing operational efficiency.

With the introduction of the first electrically operated ground power generators, Japan Airlines is sending a strong signal for sustainability and environmental protection in aviation. This measure could serve as a model for other airlines and airports worldwide and accelerate the adoption of environmentally friendly technologies in the industry.

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Editor of this article:

Amely Mizzi is Executive Assistant at Aviation Direct Malta in San Pawl il-Baħar. She previously worked in the Aircraft and Vessel Financing division at a banking group. She is considered a linguistic talent and speaks seven languages ​​fluently. She prefers to spend her free time in Austria on the ski slopes and in summer on Mediterranean beaches, practically on her doorstep in Gozo.
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About the editor

Amely Mizzi is Executive Assistant at Aviation Direct Malta in San Pawl il-Baħar. She previously worked in the Aircraft and Vessel Financing division at a banking group. She is considered a linguistic talent and speaks seven languages ​​fluently. She prefers to spend her free time in Austria on the ski slopes and in summer on Mediterranean beaches, practically on her doorstep in Gozo.
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