Melbourne based electric truck start up,  SEA Electric has announced it has commenced commercial volume assembly of electric trucks at its Dandenong factory.

SEA Electric says it will be producing the trucks using Hino components, assembling semi knock down (SKD) kits which include the Hino cab, chassis rails, wheels, axles and suspension to which it fits its own battery packs, electric motor, wiring and control units.

Although based on the current Hino 300 and 500 series models and sold through 15 Hino selected dealers around the country, the SEA Electric trucks won’t feature the same extensive safety suite that Hino’s diesel truck models now come equipped with.

SEA Electric claims its trucks will cost ‘under $14 per day to charge from the grid’, and less it says if ‘depot solar’ is used.

SEA Electric was established in 2013 by its executive chairman, Tony Fairweather. The company unveiled an AVIA based Smith Electric Truck at the Brisbane Truck Show that year and placed a Smith Electric Truck on trial with major transport company, Toll. Since then the company says it has engineered its own systems.  Tony Fairweather was previously involved with local bus and coach importing business Patico Automotive, the one time Australian distributor of Optare buses.

In what turned out to be a tumultuous year in 2018, Isuzu Australia took the industry by surprise, announcing it had linked with SEA Electric to develop its own electric truck locally, in answer to what it said was ‘strong demand from Australian fleet customers’. That relationship seems to have gone quiet, with SEA Electric’s regional director, Glen Walker, telling T&B News, that  the company doesn’t want to ‘close a door’.

“Gone quiet is a the best way of  describing it,” Walker told us.

We don’t want to close a door and we don’t want to say goodbye, but the market we operate in is dynamic and is fast changing and what seemed like a good idea by some people a couple of years ago, might not currently be seen as a good idea today,” he added.

“Our product is deliberately positioned and designed to be non-brand specific so its an installation  that has a broad range of opportunities,” he added

Since then it has established operations in the USA where Hino America recently announced it had inked a deal with SEA Electric to develop and supply electric drivetrains for various trucks as part of the Hino America’s Project Z zero emission program. In recent weeks SEA also announced it had raised around $AUD54 in a private equity placement in America.

A planned factory in Victoria’s Gippsland, announced by Premier Daniel Andrews in 2018, was set to be up and running this year on the back of government grants for the project. This is apparently now not happening.

It seems the Victorian government stopped making grant progress payments, citing SEA Electric’s failure to meet required ‘milestones’, while SEA said at the time a default notice with Westpac, and not a failure to reach milestones was the reason the government did not make the grant payments, which stopped the Gippsland project progressing.

Now headquartered in America and with strong equity funding, SEA Electric appears to be headed for operations on a bigger stage.

The company  says it will initially offer two models in its SEA Electric-badged range, the SEA 300 and SEA 500, based on the Hino 300 Series and Hino 500 Series models respectively,  both of which are now on sale, with 46 pre-orders on its books from some of Australia’s biggest companies and councils it says.

“We’re now a truck brand, we’ve got our own compliance plates, we’ve got our own certification, we’ve got our own ADR approvals, we had a truck at a proving ground doing testing a few weeks ago and we have gone from being a re-powerer of diesels to effectively providing our own power,” said Glen Walker, SEA Electric’s  regional director for Oceania.

“SEA Electric is privileged to be able to bring this Australian first to the marketplace,” said Walker.

“These trucks truly meet a need in the marketplace, and prior to this launch, we have received pre-orders for 46 vehicles,” he said.

“It represents an exciting phase in global EV development, and this places SEA Electric at the forefront,” he added.

The company’s press release says the trucks are propelled by its SEA-Drive Power-System, which it adds, is available in ‘various performance and range packages to suit applications from 4.5 tonne car licence vehicles through to 22.5 tonne 3 axle trucks’.

Prior to the deal with Hino, SEA Electric’s trucks  were only available as retrofit kits for existing diesel vehicles, but now  the company explained that the new models are being assembled locally from the SKD kits, with its fully integrated SEA-Drive Power-System fitted from the start.

The company claims that its ‘real world testing of in-service vehicles that travel up to 1000 kilometres per week has revealed daily recharging costs of less than $14 per day using standard off-peak electricity prices of 15c per kWh’.

“Future proofed with an upgradable plug and play architecture, the SEA-Drive Power-System can be charged using the world’s biggest charging network, which is 415V 3-phase power via the truck’s standard on-board charging equipment, with optional DC fast charging also available.” the company press release claimed.

It says the fast charging option enables a charging rate four times faster than standard, and offers range extending top-ups during lunch hour or vehicle loading.

SEA claims that from an operational perspective, lower maintenance and running costs are possible, with diesel consumption eliminated and fewer moving parts minimising service costs.

“Our electric Power System features a host of key features, including smooth application of torque, industry-leading range, whisper quiet operation, and importantly, a reduction in the truck’s carbon footprint, with zero emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane,” said Glen Walker.

It says other highlights of the trucks are improved workplace health and safety conditions for operators, with the powertrain producing no noise or fumes while reducing vibrations, combining to limit driver fatigue.

“SEA-Drive technology performs exceptionally well in congested urban environments, where pollution reduction is needed most, and as demonstrated by real world experience from our global vehicle deployments it provides competitive whole of life operating costs when compared to traditional diesel vehicles,” said Glen Walker.

“As demonstrated with vehicles already fitted with SEA-Drive Power-Systems, the trucks are extremely quiet, perform well, while also providing a powerful yet smooth ride.

“They also have a flexible architecture which will future-proof their ownership.

“There are a range of advantages provided by the SEA-Drive Power-System, including reduced service costs, with a routine four-hour inspection required every six months, and minimal wear on service brakes due to the use of regenerative braking,” Walker added.

“In Australia, carbon dioxide emissions from transport are now the second highest behind electricity generation, and are forecast to continue rising.

“With this announcement, the freight industry can now react – safe in the knowledge that their freight product offering will be enhanced in their clients’ eyes.

“Mass uptake of electric trucks in urban Australia has the potential to save millions of tonnes of CO2 each year, and provide up to 40,000 MWh of mobile battery storage, which is a potential future revenue stream.”

The trucks are now on sale at 15 accredited SEA Electric dealers across the country,  that  it says ‘can also provide service and parts support, including any work carried out under the standard three-year warranty’.

“Having a strong dealer network and nationwide support structure in place, we are excited for the range to hit Australia’s roads,” concluded Glen Walker.

Roadside Assistance will be available via industry insurance provider NTI’s Truck Assist operation for the life of the warranty period.