Electric truck manufacturer SEA Electric has extended its commitment to the Australian market by doubling the size of its local assembly facility for zero-emission trucks in the Melbourne suburb of Dandenong.
The company leads the world in terms of a comprehensive range of highly adaptable electric truck options, with its present plant expanding to now cover 8,000m2 on a total site of 15,000m2, giving SEA Electric the capacity to produce eight trucks per day, or up to 2,080 units per annum.
Founded in Australia in 2012, SEA Electric released its first electric commercial products in 2017, while last year it launched its new range of medium and heavy-duty electric cab chassis models, distributed and supported by an extensive dealership network.
“Australia doesn’t need to search the world to attract EV manufacturers – SEA Electric is proud to be a global leader in commercial eMobility technology, homegrown here in Victoria,” said Tony Fairweather, SEA Electric Founder and CEO.
“Since launching our new range last year, we have attracted incredible interest from a wide cross-section of leading companies and government bodies, who seek to improve their environmental sustainability, despite a lack of policy and incentives to fuel growth in the sector on these shores.
“The recent change of Federal Government and the subsequent increase in EV activity, has provided SEA Electric with renewed confidence that appropriate policy and incentives maybe close. There are many examples of successful policy in EV progressive countries such as the US that we should simply emulate.
“Despite Australian passenger car production wrapping up in 2017, we still have vibrant engineering, development, and manufacturing capabilities, of which we should be proud.”
SEA Electric’s existing facility has for the past 12 months enjoyed the benefits of a 100kW rooftop solar array, which has produced 129MWh of energy to date, with 86MWh being exported back to the power grid.
All told, the system has ensured that the site is approximately 60 per cent carbon positive, in other words, it produces 60 per cent more energy than it consumes.
As a cornerstone of the new energy ecosystem, in future, SEA Electric will utilise the batteries within vehicle-to-grid (V2G) functional trucks on-site, where the trucks could provide power grid stability by feeding energy back at times of peak demand or grid disruption.
The local range of SEA Electric badged trucks, the SEA 300 EV and the SEA 500 EV, are available in a range of models from 4.5t GVM vehicles capable of being driven on a car licence, through to 22.5t three-axle rigid trucks.
Final applications for the products include dry and refrigerated freight, side, front and rear refuse trucks, tilt trays, work trucks and elevated work platforms amongst others, with the company recently launching Australia’s first airport refuelling EV truck.
Supporting the vehicles is a comprehensive aftersales and warranty offering, including 24/7 phone and roadside support, plus a nationwide network of dedicated service partners.
One of the most exhilarating aspects of being involved in the commercial vehicle EV space is that we are just scratching the surface of the possibilities that lay ahead.
While SEA Electric’s technology is mature and proven in the field with over 1.5 million miles of real-world use that is backed by telematics data, considering where the future of commercial eMobility technology is heading is exciting.
Everything onboard: electric
It is one thing to provide the market with a specialist commercial grade electric power-system, but the next challenge conquered by SEA Electric has been to fully electrify all ancillary functions of a wide range of vehicles to date.
The SEA-Drive® power-system is highly adaptable to most OEM glider chassis, covering applications from 3.5t to 29t, and in that range is a massive array of final applications.
While the technology is perfectly suited to first mile and last mile delivery use, such as with dry freight, the SEA Electric team have to date successfully integrated many other functions, that have traditionally been powered via the truck’s ICE driveline.
Take for instance refuse – with multiple successful deployments of various sized rear compactor or side loader garbage trucks.
Nobody likes to be woken up by an early morning rubbish pickup, and now with near silent EVs running urban routes, the stop-start brake and transmission squeal of previous trucks is gone.
Integrating refrigeration units to trucks has also been successfully achieved.
Some other major breakthroughs to date have included elevated work platforms, otherwise known as cherry pickers or boom trucks, while tilt trays and dump trucks have also been built to pure-EV spec.
One of the areas where innovation has already shone through is with the innovative design on various new municipal work trucks.
Thinking outside the box, standard power points have been installed on trucks, allowing them to power tools and allowing for recharging in the field, greatly adding to the utility of the vehicles, without sapping the low-voltage batteries.
Taking the power off
In previous internal combustion-powered vehicles, the Power Take Off, or PTO, is typically found on the vehicle’s transmission, which for many applications connects to a hydraulic pump to run various systems.
One of the downsides of this arrangement is that the engine must always be running for the PTO to be operable.
While the SEA-Drive® power-system runs the drive system of a vehicle, it also is the brain behind the energy management needs of ancillaries.
Gone are the PTO-powered belts and pumps of the past, in are independent electrically driven systems.
It’s a major deviation from the norm, but it leads to significant efficiency gains, with energy only deployed when required.
The future of eMobility is up to your imagination!
When considering the SEA-Drive® power-system, not only does it run near silently and without fumes, but with its architecture not requiring thermal management, it runs to a low temperature, especially when compared to an ICE vehicle with a hot engine and exhaust system.
So, possibilities exist working with sensitive and hazardous materials.
Traditional truck ancillaries such as pumps, winches, blowers, suckers, compressors, booms and lifts could all be adapted to electric power.
Everyone loves a food truck – now picture one that doesn’t require a noisy and smelly diesel generator, or reliance on burning gas.
Think outside the box truck, commercial EV can get the job done, sustainably.
The electric motor and electrically propelled machines are nothing new.
What is new is the evolution of electric systems specially designed to drive the unique requirements of commercial transport, with SEA Electric at the cutting edge of developments.
A look back at history
The principles behind the concept of electric motors have origins that stretch back hundreds of years, which led to the first electric train ultimately being presented in 1879.
For trains, trams and other similar machines that follow set paths, providing electricity via a pantograph or through inground supplies provides a relatively foolproof system.
However, to fuel the freedom expected by general road users, the obvious source of energy is the battery.
The first electric cars actually date back to the times of the original electric trains and trams, and various curiosities have subsequently speckled the timeline of automotive history.
It took until the 1990s for the motoring world to step up its focus on electrification, largely underlined by a newfound understanding of the environmental implications of the sustained burning of fossil fuels.
Technology evolved through to the launch of the Tesla Roadster in 2008, while elsewhere, the widespread uptake of hybrid drivelines showed what is possible.
From its origins in 2012, it took five years for SEA Electric to perfect its systems for commercial release, which came when the relative pricing of suitable batteries dropped to a competitive level in 2017.
However, the underlying theory behind the SEA-Drive® power-system is a long way removed from those found in modern EV cars.
EVs in trucks and buses
When it comes to the electrification of commercial vehicles, it isn’t a simple case of plugging and playing what has been developed in the passenger car space and upsizing accordingly.
It is worthwhile examining the internal combustion engine playbook first.
Trucks use diesel-powered engines for a simple reason – the low-down high-torque characteristics of engine architecture provide the force required to move big weights efficiently.
While relatively low-revving diesel motors can also be found in cars, the dominant gasoline-burning engines rely on high-revs, essentially horsepower, to get the job done.
Similarly – looking at the motors utilized in some passenger car EVs, paints a high revving scenario, they can spin as fast as 18,000rpm, providing the punch to deliver big performance in the road car sphere.
However, examining the SEA-Drive® power-system, the motors run to a relatively much lower peak-rpm, yet produce many times the low-down torque figure of electric cars– the design mimics the performance characteristics of a comparable ICE truck.
Essentially, not all EV drivelines are the same, and when compared to the market, SEA Electric has developed a system that is the electric equivalent of a diesel engine.
A transport company wouldn’t put a car engine in a truck – and in transitioning to a sustainable future, they don’t need to make sacrifices with the performance of their future fleets.
Bespoke commercial technology
By tailoring factors including battery chemistry, voltages and control system technology bespoke to heavy applications, SEA Electric has developed a highly efficient platform that ticks all of the boxes, yet has simplicity at its core.
By stripping weight from the design, there are possibilities for greater payload and range, while also resulting in less service downtime, all important factors in the uptake of commercial EV.