Switched on Trucking
Since its inception in 2012, Australian manufacturer SEA Electric has grown a global reputation for its innovative electric power system solutions for commercial vehicles.
Article by Prime Mover Magazine, July 7 2022
In 2017, SEA Electric began performing driveline swaps on existing internal combustion engine (ICE) powered trucks, and now at its immaculate Melbourne facility has moved to fitting its patented SEA-Drive power-system to new Semi Knocked Down (SKD) cab-chassis kits sourced from Hino.
The new range wears the latest SEA Electric badging and branding, complete with its own compliance plate and full three-year factory warranty.
The Hino cabs come fully trimmed and the finished vehicles are almost indiscernible from their parentage.
This move, to series production in Australia, has resulted in SEA Electric becoming the country’s latest OEM, with the trucks available via a nationwide network of established and accredited dealers, and fully backed by a comprehensive aftersales offering including factory warranties and roadside service through NTI Truck Assist.
Australia’s road freight sector accounts for 38 per cent of country’s total transport emissions and electric vehicles are expected to play an increasing role in the journey to net zero by 2050.
Operationally, lower maintenance and running costs are possible with electric trucks, with the cost of consumption of diesel fuel eliminated, and by having fewer moving parts service costs are minimised with SEA Electric scheduling a routine four-hour inspection at a dealer every six months.
Minimal wear on service brakes will be one adjunct reward given the use of the regenerative braking available when the motor is in over-run. Using standard off-peak electricity prices of 15 cents per kWh, SEA Electric says it currently costs around $14 per day to charge from the grid, and even less if solar power is used.
SEA Electric’s own Melbourne facility is now powered by a 100kW rooftop solar power system. Future-proofed with an upgradable plug and play architecture, the SEA-Drive power-system can be charged using 415Volt 3-phase power via the truck’s standard on-board charging equipment, with optional DC fast charging also available.
The fast-charging option enables a charging rate four times faster than standard, and offers range extending top-ups during drivers’ breaks or vehicle loading.The fast-charging option enables a charging rate four times faster than standard, and offers range extending top-ups during drivers’ breaks or vehicle loading.
The electric motor used in the passenger licence category SEA 300/45 model delivers an impressive 700Nm of torque and 140kW of power. The larger SEA 500 medium-duty EV truck range is available in either 4×2 or 6×2 axle configurations with a maximum body length of 8,930mm and a GVM range between 15 or 22.5 tonnes.
The drivetrain is currently available in four specifications, ranging from 180HP/700Nm, through to 470HP/3,500Nm, with various battery capacities available between 88kWh and 220kWh.
The initial focus for SEA Electric trucks includes applications associated with municipal and regional local government authorities and includes tippers, garbage compactors and elevated work platforms.
First and last mile delivery operations are a logical target as well and IKEA has been one of the early Australian adopters of SEA Electric trucks. “Many of these large fleets utilise their vehicles for less than half of a 24 hour day.
The balance is spent in depot yards, where rooftop solar panels can generate ample power supply to fully charge their batteries,” says Tony Fairweather, SEA Electric Founder and CEO.
The battery packs are located between the chassis rails to achieve a low centre of gravity and to protect the batteries from accidental damage by items such as bollards or errant forklifts.
During a series of brief test drives two factors stand out when driving the SEA Electric trucks: the outstanding initial torque which is available instantly from start off, and the quietness of the trucks’ operation.
With the windows up and the radio off the only noise discernible is from the air conditioning fan and with the windows wound down the hum of the tyres on the pavement is the most noticeable sound.
Inside the cab the familiar multi-media unit found in most Japanese trucks has been configured to provide additional information including the state of battery charge and the anticipated driving range.
The wand used to operate engine exhaust brakes on diesel models activates the very effective electric retardation which also diverts energy back to the batteries, recharging on the go and extending the range prior to being connected to a charger.
A touch pad is located in the gear lever position to enable the selection of forward and reverse gears.
The move to using knock-down chassis and cab kits from a recognised global manufacturer strengthens the case for SEA Electric vehicles and has enabled the company to concentrate on its patented software system that delivers high torque with low stress similarly to diesel engines in commercial vehicle applications.
“SEA Electric is already in the process of working with our tier one supply base to develop components better suited to our needs from batteries through to charging systems,” says Glen Walker, Vice President, SEA Electric, Asia Pacific Region.
“These co-developments will be increasingly proprietary.” Glen comes from an 18-year career at Kenworth Australia which included roles as Chief Engineer of Kenworth Trucks, and Group Operations and National Sales Manager. He is also a board member of the Australian Electric Vehicle Council. Glen explains the total cost of ownership of an electric vehicle compared to one powered by an internal combustion engine.
“If you pay cash for an EV and cash for an ICE today, the premium for the EV is fully refunded in a little under five years,” Glen says.
“From then on it is profoundly positive. In relation to diesel use, more or less, distance travelled respectively shortens or lengthens this payback period. Alternatively with the appropriate finance package, the vehicle can be cash-flow positive from month one.”
The SEA-Drive power-system had previously been offered to the market as a retrofit option for existing internal combustion engine powered vehicles. The fresh process of assembling the trucks from new results in less wastage, quicker build times and lower costs.
The current Melbourne factory building is being doubled in size and while SEA Electric is well on its way to become an Australian success story, the company firmly has its sights set on global leadership, with a presence now across five continents.
It has already been particularly successful in the United States where its technologies have been adapted to both trucks and buses.
An order was placed in late 2021 for 1,150 EV trucks and SEA Electric has partnered with Midwest Transit Equipment (MTE), one of the largest school bus dealers in the United States, to update 10,000 school buses with battery-electric power-systems, the biggest deal of its kind to date.
Prior to the May Federal election the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reductions announced a program which will see the additional funding of up to $127.9 million made available to support the integration of electric vehicle technologies into both light and heavy vehicle fleets in Australia.
- Published in Articles, E-Range, News, SEA-Drive, Technology
Electric School Bus U.S. Market Study and Buyer’s Guide: A Resource for School Bus Operators Pursuing Fleet Electrification
This publication is intended to serve as a resource primarily for school districts and transportation directors exploring school bus electrification and provide them with a better understanding of the state of the electric school bus market and available offerings. It aims to present the growing interest and investment in the sector along with key aspects of the current technology. A scan of the market explores the growing demand for these buses and how manufacturers are positioning themselves to meet that demand. The catalog presents electric school bus models available today with detailed vehicle specifications allowing readers to compare various models and weigh important considerations.
School districts across the United States have started the transition to electric school buses (ESBs). As of March 2022, 415 districts (or private fleet operators) had committed to the use of 12,275 ESBs across 38 states and a range of operating conditions. States and municipalities are setting electrification goals while manufacturers scale production.
Compared to the typical school bus that runs on diesel fuel, ESBs have the potential to lower operation and maintenance costs for fleets and have zero tailpipe emissions. Their large batteries can store and deliver energy using “vehicle-to-everything” technology, to power buildings and other devices, which can support greater resiliency including through the integration of renewable energy. ESBs also have the potential to generate revenue by discharging energy from their batteries back onto the grid, lowering utility costs and emissions. Though this is a nascent market, technological advancements are due to make this widely available in the near future.
Currently, 22 ESB models are available from 12 manufacturers for Type A, C and D buses: 14 newly manufactured vehicle models and eight repowered vehicle models. There is the largest selection of Type A models. Type C models are the most commercially ready.
Each generation of buses is more advanced than the previous: many manufacturers are on their second or third iteration, some even further along. The newest models possess a battery range to serve more than 99% of routes in the U.S. (School Transportation News 2021a).
Momentum around electric school buses (ESBs) is growing in the United States as school districts across the country transition to this cleaner and healthier technology, bolstered by an upcoming infusion of new funding from the federal government. The ESB transition will require a coordinated effort among numerous entities, including school district leadership and staff; school bus manufacturers and contractors; utilities; policy makers; regulators; local advocacy organizations; and community members.
This publication is intended to serve as a resource primarily for school districts, transportation directors, and other school bus operators exploring school bus electrification to provide a better understanding of the state of the ESB market and available offerings. It aims to present the growing interest and investment in this sector along with key aspects of the current technology. In the “Status of the Electric School Bus Market” section, we explore the growing demand for these buses and how manufacturers are positioning themselves to meet that demand through a scan of the market. Next, in “Bus Basics,” we explain key components of an ESB and discuss the charging and related infrastructure that is needed to support these buses. The core element of the publication presents a catalog of the 22 ESB models available as of early 2022 with detailed vehicle specifications allowing readers to compare various models and weigh important considerations. We conclude by summarizing the status of school bus electrification to date.
Approach and Methodology
The content of this publication has been gathered from a variety of sources, compiling information on models available in the U.S. from publicly available vehicle specifications sheets confirmed through discussions with bus manufacturers when possible.
We explore school district experiences with ESBs representing a variety of use cases in the U.S. – rural, suburban and urban; warm and cold weather, including extreme temperatures; and early adopters further along in their process as well as those in earlier stages of procurement. We compiled recent research and reporting on school district commitments and experiences and supplemented public information with conversations with school districts and other partners. We plan to update this publication annually as new vehicles come to market and existing models are altered.
This resource is one of many from WRI’s Electric School Bus Initiative and is intended to be updated to expand upon topics like funding and financing, alternative service models and utility engagement.
Download the full report at World Resources Institute published on June 10, 2022.
- Published in Articles, E-Range, News, SEA-Drive, Technology
SEA Electric partners for roadside assistance
AUSTRALIA’S sole volume electric truck maker, SEA Electric, has partnered with NTI Truck Assist to give national support to its growing list of SEA owners and operators.
It gives owners 24/7 coverage and support through metro and regional areas and reinforces the expansion of SEA truck sales and the growing acceptance of EVs used for commercial delivery and haulage.
SEA Electric president for Asia Pacific, Bill Gillespie, told GoAutoNews Premium that his company has “normalised the process for companies to convert to all-electric fleets”.
“Our ties with NTI provides SEA Electric customers with the confidence that a specialist truck call centre is supporting their investment around the clock,” he said.
The assistance program is national and is for the life of the SEA Electric vehicle’s warranty period of three years or 150,000km.
“Primarily, it’s about building a better customer outcome,” Mr Gillespie said.
“Having a call centre of NTI’s calibre means our customers are talking 24/7 to experienced people who can solve any problems with the vehicle.
“NTI CEO Tony Clark said his company really wanted to be part of this program and get onboard with the zero-emission transport world.”
Mr Gillespie said NTI has recovery vehicles throughout Australia.
“They can do a systems check – with high voltage tests – or basic systems check on the vehicle,” he said.
“If they can’t get the truck operating again then it would be on the tilt tray straight back to the dealer.
“Primarily they’re operating within the range of a dealership.”
He said there aren’t trucks operating between regional centres at the moment but the NTI partnership ensures support for trucks in rural areas.
Mr Gillespie said SEA Electric – which uses Hino trucks as the basis for its all-EV, self-branded models – had orders for about 200 trucks that were now being built.
Trucks operating are in local government authorities, private operators and large corporate fleets, with trials being undertaken by corporations including Woolworths in Sydney and Melbourne, and Ikea.
“We have trucks in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria and more recently, some sales in Tasmania,” he said.
“We have dealers in every part of Australia – two each in Sydney and Melbourne, throughout Tasmania, one in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, plus one on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast – and regional centres such as Wodonga and Cairns. So we have coverage.
“We are targeting major metropolitan areas but we also have strong interest from local governments in suburbs and in regions. There is no shortage of demand and interest in EVs for commercial applications.”
He said local governments had been enthusiastic about the electric truck.
“A lot of councils have a desire to lower their carbon footprint,” he said.
“Australia has 537 councils and we have already sold to about 10 councils. There’s a really big opportunity in Australia for electric trucks in delivery routes.
“As an example, we also have two small home delivery, refrigerated trucks on trial in Sydney and Melbourne,” he said.
“It is a world-first to run full electric, refrigerated trucks. We are also in discussions with other companies, including Coles and Toll.”
Mr Gillespie said that there are no government incentives, at the moment, for individuals and corporations to move to electric trucks.
“We’ve been lobbying state and federal governments – the state governments in Queensland and Victoria particularly – and have had discussions about the possibility of offering tax incentives for companies to choose zero-emission vehicles,” he said.
“There’s a range of things that governments can do but up to this point there’s been no money on the table for companies wishing to choose a zero-emission alternative. So we’re still working with the government.”
Mr Gillespie said SA Electric has 15 dealers in Australia who are sales, service and parts outlets, and then other Hino dealers will in time become parts and service back-up dealers.
“There are nearly 50 dealers around Australia that will be able to handle backup and support for the trucks and we’re probably six months away from having that in place,” he said.
“We’re also looking at up to five service people in each state. The truck is serviced by the dealer and the warranty handled by the dealer. If the warranty work is related to the truck, it goes to Hino. If it’s electrical, we take care of that.”
Mr Gillespie said SEA Electric was now working with the network in high-voltage training.
Asked about SEA Electric’s future plans, Mr Gillespie said the company had no plans to move to hydrogen fuel-cell units as a propulsion system for long-distance trucks.
“I don’t think that battery electric is going to be the way to go for long distance work at this point,” he said.
“I know that there are long-range electric highways being built – for example, in Queensland – and that in time, with fast charging and enough energy in these areas, EVs can have the ability for long distances.
“But Australia sells about 22,000 light and medium-duty trucks each year. That means what we are selling at the moment doesn’t even scratch the surface. Even if we make 1000 electric trucks in Australia, where we’re a mile away from having to worry about the long-distance truck segment.
“So we’re very aware of the huge opportunities available to us in the urban, metro and regional markets. We have enough activity thre without thinking about long-distance trucks.”
Continue reading the full article at Go Auto Premium by Neil Dowling published on June 12, 2022.
- Published in Articles, E-Range, Media Release, Networking, News, SEA-Drive, Technology