Local challenger punches above its weight at Show
In this four part examination, we look at the upstart electric vehicle (EV) challengers to the established commercial vehicle manufacturers, who exhibited at this year’s Brisbane Truck Show (BTS).
Leading the EV charge at the show was burgeoning locally founded international player SEA Electric.
Withdrawals gave it the chance punch above its weight in the display stakes, utilising space the big names are traditionally accustomed to.
Vice president – Asia Pacific Glen Walker agrees that this was the intention.
“We were always coming but what this gave us the opportunity to do is present out entire range of vehicles,” Walker says.
“We were only going to have two vehicles on the smaller stand down the way.
“What we’ve now go is the two variants of the C500 and the two variants of the C300 together on the same stand.
“Call it our coming out.
“We are a truck manufacturer who has a range of trucks that happen to be electric, happen to be zero emission, happen to be quiet, happy to be smooth, happy to be fume-free, good for OH&S, happy to have a competitive total cost of ownership, and, equally importantly, designed and manufactured here in Australia, sold and serviced through a national dealer network.
“It’s what truck manufacturers do.”
Manufacturers are also fiercely competitive and SEA is in the sights of a dismissive Daimler. The sentiment is returned with the tart observation that “other manufacturers” are displaying “nothing new” at the show.
Asked how SEA was able to build the support structure now numbering 15 dealerships nationwide, Walker nominated two points.
“Relationships and a story,” he says.
“Many of those dealers, people within SEA Electric have dealt with them in a variety prior lives, so know many of them.
“We have used many of them in the early incarnation of our product development – buying diesel vehicles removing power systems and electrifying them.
“So, we already had established relationships and they believed the story and saw the potential. It took a while to get the dealer agreements and all those things together. But if you’ve got a willing seller and a willing buyer you’ll always come up with an acceptable solution.”
SEA understands that operational back-up for owners is crucial. SEA Electric vehicles now come with an NTI on-road support package for the life of the warranty period and the dealer network is part of the mix in the way that other truckmakers operate.
While he admits there is still some training to go with getting skills to where SEA Electric would wish them to be, there are also gains allowed by IT, with propulsion functions able to be diagnosed remotely from the Melbourne headquarters.
“Over time, that same level of expertise will become available in the dealerships as well,” Walker says.
The aim is to “normalise” the buying of an electric truck, both with the purchase through dealerships and the aftersales service, and the company is looking to do the same on a much greater sale in the US.
While acknowledging the development journey has not been without risk for those who took on the challenge of having SEA Electric trucks in their fleets, Walker is adamant that the vehicles on show were the best they could be at this stage as a result of that sort of support.
On what developments may be on the way, he underlines that the light- and medium-duty sectors is where the company will keep its focus, at least for the time being.
“It is true that SEA Electric will, one day, branch out into the prime mover market,” he says.
“But the pure battery technology in the prime mover market, with the additional weight that’s required and the additional range that’s required and the fact that you’re substantially reducing the amount of space that’s available on the chassis – there are some challenges for a pure battery prime mover.
“There’s a little bit more technological advancement that needs to be done, whether that’s hydrogen range extension or other forms of technology before we’ve settled on what the best solution for prime movers is.”
Read the full article at Owner Driver published on June 15, 2021.