Electric vechile start up, SEA Electric, is planning to expand. production both at its own facility at South Dandenong in Melbourne and also with other speciality vehicle assemblers and is in discussion with several companies to fulfil expected demand for trucks and buses with its electric driveline in the Australian market.
The company hosted. the truck trade press at its Dandenong South facility last week in its first local event for the truck and automotive media, revealing it is not openly pushing to expand its produciton capability, but also to expand its offering to light buses and even SUVs.
It is understood SEA is in discussion with a number of specialised low volume manufacturers, believed to include Walkinshaw and Premcar to enable it to ramp up production more quickly in Australia. Walkinshaw already re manufactures both the RAM and also the Chevy Silverado pick ups, converting them from left hand to right hand drive here in Melbourne, while Premcar created the Navara Warrior pick up for Nissan among a range of projects it handles
The company is working closely with Toyota Indonesia providing a battery electric driveline for its Inova SUV, a vehicle based on the same chassis as the Fortuner that Toyota sells here in Australia. The electric Inova was unveiled recently at the Indonesian Motor Show in Jakarta and SEA Electric executives, including Bill Gillespie and Glen Walker were there.
As well as the passenger focussed Inova SUV, the company also has a project to produce a battery electric version of Hino’s low floor wheel chair compatible Poncho urban mini bus well underway at its Melbourne HQ.
SEA Electric was at pains to point out that vehicles it assembles at its Dandenong operation are registered with a compliance plate and a SEA Electric VIN, even though the basis for the models are SKD (semi knock down) trucks which are shipped to Melbourne by Hino. SEA assemble the chassis rails, install the cab, fit the suspension and wheels, as well as the wiring harnesses and fit SEA batteries and electric driveline to create a medium duty electric truck, which looks like a Hino 300 or 500 but wears a SEA Electric badge.
One point that raises a defensive tone from SEA when questioned about it, is the lack of electronic safety systems in its trucks, particularly given the equivalent Hino models the electric SEA trucks are based on, come with a full suite of electronic safety aids, including autonomous emergency braking and stability control.
The companies SEA is mostly targeting in the early stages are the same organisations whi pushed Hino for safety systems un their trucks
The most we could get out of SEA is that the company is working on it and hopes to have more safety features in due course.
Although sales numbers are meagre at the moment and trucks carry price tags that are up to double that of equivalent Hino diesel trucks, the company’s Asia Pacific president, Bill Gillespie, believes that with strong inquiry and a growing awareness as well as a corporate push for zero emission vehicles he believes SEA Electric’s sales in this country will quickly climb.