It looks like there is going to be an Australian electric truck on the road in the coming years. PowerTorque talks to the team behind one of the early contenders in the electric race, SEA Electric, which now has an Australian electric truck on the road.
One of the aspects of technological change is the way some people are early adopters and others are much more skeptical about anything new. It is the same with the manufacturers of new technologies, some take their time to build up to any new releases, while other smaller enterprises are lighter on their feet and able to come to market earlier.
This is the case with SEA Electric, who have been at the leading edge of the transition across to battery electric, and have created a great deal of interest across the Pacific in the USA, where the whole subject of electric powertrains is much more advanced than here in Australia.
Glen Walker is the Vice President Asia Pacific at Sea Electric, coming from a long experience working in a number of different aspects of the truck and trucking industry. He has been with SEA Electric for two years.
“In Australia, we are now an original equipment manufacturer,” says Glen. “We have our own compliance plate and our own brand, a national dealer network, our own pricing and sales and service. We have become a truck company.
“The company is putting a lot of energy and resources into the United States at the moment. The opportunities there, with a supportive political environment, are profound. Whatever Australia is, the US is 10 to 15 times larger.”
Here in Australia, SEA now have five models available built on two different platforms. The 300 Series vehicles from 4.5 to 8.5 tonnes are joined by the 500 Series vehicles which are available from 14.5 tonnes all the way up to 22.5 tonnes. They are either two or three axle rigids.
In this range, SEA has five different battery sizes and five different electric motors. These can be mixed and matched to suit the specification required. It depends on what the customer is looking for, in terms of short range or long-range, high torque or low torque. They can be adapted to suit customer requirements.
The national dealer network includes 12 different companies trading in 19 different locations. SEA now has an outlet in every capital city and in a selection of major regional cities.
“For the first time, we have a national sales, service and support network behind our product,” says Glen. “We have tried to normalise the process of sales and support and follow a tried and tested service regime for a truck bought through dealerships.”
The trucks are based on the Hino cab and chassis, meaning that many of the parts required across these dealerships will be available out of the Hino spare parts system. Dealerships who will be offering SEA models are already part of the Hino dealership group.
“We have been taking a softly, softly approach in our branding at these dealerships and there are unlikely to be large signs with SEA electric,” says Glen. “That may come, but at the moment we believe that a soft sell is going to be an important part of our development. These are products which need an understanding of the freight task and the suitability of these vehicles to a particular client.
“At the moment we are in discussions with a number of the major fleets and we are finding there is a sweet spot with first mile applications like waste. There is also a sweet spot in the last mile sector, with parcel delivery, food delivery etc. Within those large fleets they often have a broad portfolio of applications and there is always a vehicle within our range which will suit some of those applications.
“The other area which is proving fruitful for us, is municipalities and city councils. Trucks are domiciled at one place and they generally have a small geography that they look after. It’s an ideal application for our technology.”