24 Aug 21

EaaS - an alternative solution for zero-emission fleets

Transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) brings with it a multitude of challenges, not least is ensuring an uninterrupted supply of green electricity. Utility energy is seldom green and a continuous, unbroken supply is often not guaranteed.

For passenger transport and commercial service fleets, where the majority of EVs are charged overnight at a depot, a ready supply of sustainable and cost-effective power is essential. Investing in the infrastructure required to deliver it can be expensive. However, Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) may provide the answer, but what is it?

Global Fleet asked Nicole Geneau (pictured), SVP at AlphaStruxure, to explain: “We design, build, own, and operate integrated electrification infrastructure solutions, which often incorporate onsite solar, battery storage, distributed generation, and charging infrastructure in an advanced microgrid solution.”

Launched by Schneider Electric and the Carlyle Group in 2019, AlphaStruxure's Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS) approach delivers reduced emissions, resilient energy supply, and fleet routing flexibility while eliminating financial and operational risks. These benefits are delivered with no upfront capital cost to the fleet owner and backed by a long-term agreement (usually 25 years).

What’s the difference between EaaS and Charging-as-a-Service?

The primary difference between EaaS and CaaS (Charging-as-a-Service) is that the latter only provides connection to an energy utility, which is often supplemented with charge management software. EaaS is an integrated, holistic approach to solving the entire energy needs of an electric fleet.

Since September 2010, over 5 million Americans in Maryland have been affected by federally-declared weather-related disasters. The County partnered with AlphaStruxure to create a EaaS microgrid solution at its Brookville bus depot. The project utilises Schneider Electric's EcoStruxure™ platform, which includes microgrid controllers and electrical distribution equipment. The 5.6 MW microgrid integrates solar photovoltaics, battery energy storage and distributed clean energy generation, including 2 MW of charging capacity. AlphaStruxure operates it via a cloud-connected centre providing 24/7/365 monitoring and optimised energy performance.

Maryland’s new electric buses

The project has enabled 44 buses in Montgomery County's transit fleet to transition from diesel to electric and has reduced lifetime carbon emissions by 62%. The microgrid ensures uninterrupted bus services during any long-term power outages caused by severe weather and short-term disturbances of the utility grid. It eliminated upfront cost to the County for the microgrid and charging infrastructure and provides long-term cost predictability.

Images of Brookville Bus Depot in Maryland, USA, courtesy of AlphaStruxure.

The added benefits of EaaS

Geneau emphasises the unexpected side benefit of having solar canopies in the bus depot parking lot: “Your vehicles are protected from the elements and that’s important because in Colorado, for example, they've had so much hail in recent years that if you’re not parking fleet vehicles under some kind of structure, it’s difficult and expensive to get insurance.”

Another difference between EaaS and CaaS is that energy-as-a-service delivers green energy all the way from source (whether wind, solar or natural gas) to the vehicle. Geneau explains: “If you're planning a decarbonisation strategy, it's not enough to just take the electron that you're given from the utility because you're not in control of how green it is. In the US, there are still some utilities that are predominantly coal-based generation. And that equates to a pretty brown electron. It's important to think about where your electricity is coming from and how green it is.”

EaaS is not an alternative to CaaS and it won’t be applicable for every fleet, particularly field service fleets (typically comprised of battery electric vans that stay with the service engineer and are taken home each night and charged there). But for depot-based fleets, that are wanting to transition to BEVs while also securing the power supply to their whole facility (including, in many cases, an onsite maintenance and repair workshop), energy-as-a-service is a solution with multiple benefits.

Top Photo: Nicole Geneau (source: handout)

Authored by: Alison Pittaway