Features Truck News — 17 July 2017

An electric truck industry for Australia?  That is what is mooted by one company based in Melbourne.

SEA Electric held a media briefing in Melbourne last week, to which Truck and Bus News did not receive an invitation, announcing that it had delivered its first electric truck to Australian transport company, Kings Transport and Logistics.

Kings has said that it aims to gradually replace all its engine driven trucks with electric driven vehicles where electric propulsion suits the application and route.

Kings has apparently agreed to purchase three 8-11 tonne GVM light rigid EV10 models, three 12-15 tonne medium-rigid EV14s and three E4V electric light vans from SEA Electric.

SEA is also apparently offering a 17-tonne GHEV model based on a Hino chassis but Kings has not made any decisions on this model yet although SEA has apparently sold one such model into a waste operation in New Zealand.

No details have been made available to us about exactly what chassis the light and medium duty or van are based. The company is set to assemble the electric trucks at a facility in Melbourne and has received an approximately half million-dollar grant from the Victorian Government through its New Energy Jobs Fund.

SEA Electric’s executive chairman is Tony Fairweather who unveiled the AVIA based Smith Electric Truck at the Brisbane Truck Show back in 2013 and had one Smith Electric Truck on feet with major transport company Toll for approximately two years.  Fairweather has also been involved with bus and coach importation in recent times with Patico Automotive, the former Australian distributor of Optare buses and Irizar coaches.

T&B News contacted Toll for comment on how that Smith Electric truck performed and what had happened to it but so far we have not received any response.

It was revealed at the launch that SEA Electric trucks will be assembled at its Melbourne facility by technicians and engineers who are  “installing proprietary SEA-Drive technologies for state, national and regional markets”. The company claims that the trucks have a range of 200km on a charge and capable of being recharged in up to six hours.

Kings says it linked with SEA last year, “providing advice and assistance to optimise local content, vehicle specifications and cab configurations to deliver the most suitable product to their clients and the broader Australian and New Zealand market”.

Kings Transport CEO Tony Mellick believes the new electric trucks will contribute to the competitiveness of its transport fleets and the sustainability of its business operations and said it was an exciting day for the company

“We are committed to our carbon-neutral company fleet policy and we look forward to offering sustainable transport solutions to our customers,” said Tony Mellick.

All nine of the SEA electric trucks will be based in Melbourne, where Mellick believes the claimed range of close to 200km ” will hit the sweet spot,” for the company.

Tony Fairweather thanked the Victorian energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio for the state’s support, saying the firm is “appreciative of the vision that has led to support for new energy and technology businesses such as ours.”

Time will only tell if the SEA electric trucks will prove an attractive proposition for transport operators in the Australian environment or if the relatively small maker will be able to compete with the likes of Daimler with its upcoming Fuso E-Canter or other electric trucks it has plans to bring to Australia or the likes of Tesla and Nikola which both have globally scaled electric commercial vehicles on the way.

Ultimately cost and return on investment will be the ultimate driving force for fleets and most truck makers will tell you without government incentives it is hard to sell electric vehicles into a market where relatively cheap diesel fuel and the lower capital cost for a conventionally powered diesel trucks make the electric alternative a tough proposition.

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