Two years of Stargate: on-site electrification, Digital Green Lane and Modal Shift


The Stargate project has been up and running for 2 years now. Project initiatives over the past year have included the ordering of electric ground handling equipment and the provision of the necessary charging infrastructure, the further roll out of the Digital Green Lane to reduce waiting times for trucks and the promotion of alternative mobility solutions for airport staff. Apart from this concrete initiatives, our project team has completed a significant amount of preparatory work for various tests and demos that will be undertaken in 2024.

Electrification in action

In terms of decarbonisation, the Stargate project is focussing its efforts on electric ground handling equipment. Following successful testing, consortium partner DHL Aviation has proceeded to order various types of electric machinery. 11 electric pushback tractors (Mulags) and 14 crew vans will be delivered in December, followed by 2 nose lifters, 2 belt loaders and 9 high loaders by mid-2024. After delivery of this equipment over 30% of DHL’s ground handling equipment will be electric, a huge step in improving the sustainability of their ground operations.

This has the potential to drastically reduce both the CO2 emissions and the noise impact associated with ground operations, which is beneficial to staff and local residents alike. The necessary on-site preparations for this new equipment have already been completed. This includes the provision of 28 charging points, with 10 more to come.

Digital Green Lane and modal shift

The Digital Green Lane is a fully digital system for the delivery and collection of goods between freight forwarders and ground handlers, facilitated using cloud-based applications via BRUcloud. This process offers numerous benefits:  shorter waiting times for the trucks that deliver and collect goods, a reduction in CO2 emissions, increased transparency and less paper. The Digital Green Lane was further expanded by cargo community organisation Air Cargo Belgium and some 95% of all cargo in the Brussels Airport cargo zone is now processed via this system. A pilot programme incorporating this same system was also launched by partner airport Athens International Airport last year.

Another of Stargate’s objectives is to encourage the modal shift, including amongst airport staff. Brussels Airport has consequently appointed a Bike Manager in partnership with the Province of Flemish Brabant, who will assess the potential for increased bicycle usage at the airport and develop concrete measures and campaigns to boost the number of cyclists. The Bike Manager has since launched “The Bike Test” campaign, ensured the installation of bicycle counters at the airport and conducted a bicycle survey to identify staff needs and incentives. The airport has additionally launched a Carpool Tool which enables employees from all airport companies to find carpooling buddies in their local area.

2024: the year of acceleration

A host of projects have been developed over the past year with a view to accelerating Stargate in 2024. These will facilitate various on-site tests and demos that are scheduled to take place at Brussels Airport next year. This includes the testing of hydrogen-powered ground handling equipment by cargo zone handlers to evaluate the pros and cons on site. Aéroport de Toulouse-Blagnac also plans to test hydrogen-powered ground handling equipment.

Aviation fuel comprising a blend of kerosene and biofuel can be supplied at Brussels Airport via the NATO pipeline. However, the Stargate project is now exploring the possibility of blending kerosene with a higher ratio of biofuel. The necessary preparatory work has been undertaken over the past year to design and develop a mobile blending plant that will facilitate this. The new plant will be tested at Brussels Airport next year in collaboration with Skytanking.

TaxiBots enable taxiing aircraft to make use of biodiesel instead of their own engines, actively reducing CO2 emissions. This type of TaxiBot will be tested on site at Brussels Airport next year, to assess the benefits and operation of this new machinery.

Budapest Airport will continue to work on the provision of electric charging infrastructure and on investigating the potential and supply of biofuels. Athens International Airport is also pursuing various electrification initiatives, including a proof of concept for their “Airside Operations” and “Wildlife control.” Aéroport de Toulouse-Blagnac will meanwhile work on an operational biofuel supply chain and launch a study to assess the potential for the autonomous operation of airports on 100% renewable energy.

Charging points at DHL Aviation for new electric ground handling equipment
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