SEA Electric launches Australia‘s first locally assembled electric trucks

In News10 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineMarch 26, 2021

Melbourne-based company SEA Electric has commenced volume commercial production of electric trucks, with the first of the vehicles currently on the SEA Electric production line in Melbourne. Two SEA Electric-badged vehicles, the SEA 300 and SEA 500, based on the Hino 500 Series Series Wide Cab and Hino 300 Series 816 models, are now available for purchase. 

“SEA Electric is privileged to be able to bring this Australian first to the marketplace,” said Glen Walker, SEA Electric regional director for Oceania. “These trucks truly meet a need in the marketplace, and prior to this launch, we have received pre-orders for 46 vehicles from some of Australia‘s biggest companies and councils.”

Previously only available as a retrofit option for existing diesel vehicles, the trucks are assembled from Semi-knocked Down (SKD) kits, complete with a fully integrated SEA-Drive Power-System from new.

The trucks are propelled by SEA Electric‘s SEA-Drive Power-System, which 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. Real world testing of in-service vehicles that travel up to 1000km per week has revealed daily recharging costs of less than $14 per day, using standard off-peak electricity prices of 15c per kWh.

Futureproofed with an upgradable plug and play architecture, the SEA-Drive Power-System can be charged using the world‘s biggest charging networks, which is 415V 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 lunch hour or vehicle loading.

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

At the top of the range is the SEA 500-225, a 6×2 axle configuration, allowing for a maximum body length 9,240mm, and a GVM of 22,500kg. It is available with a range-topping 280kWh battery.

The medium-duty SEA 500 is available in a pair of 4×2 configurations with a maximum body length of 8,930m and a GVM range between 14 to 17 tonnes. Drivetrain options include the SEA-Drive 120-35 and 180-35, which are both powered by an electric motor producing maximum torque output of 3500Nm and maximum power value of 350kW. The 120-35 has a battery capacity of 138kWh and an unladen range of 175km, while the 180-35 features a battery capacity of 220kWh, and an unladen range of 200km.

Meanwhile, the light-duty SEA 300 range is available in a variety of wheelbase, payload and body length configurations, all with a 4×2 axle format, and GVMs ranging from 4.5 to 8.5 tonnes. The SEA 300 range can be spec‘d with one of three motors The 700Nm torque and 127kW variant powers the SEA-Drive® 70-7, combined with its 88kWh battery it is perfect for the car licence 4.5-tonne GVM truck. Ideal motors for up to 8500kg GCM are the midrange 1000Nm of torque and 108kW of power for the SEA-Drive 100-10. The SEA-Drive 100 offers 1500Nm of torque and 125kW. The SEA 300-85 is available with two different batteries, providing capacities of 103kWh through to 138kWh, which provide for unladen ranges from 210 to 300km.

All SEA-Drive power systems have an operating temperature range of -20°C to 50°C, with empty to full charging times ranging from approximately five hours for the SEA-Drive70, through to 12 hours for the SEA-Drive 180 iterations.

The standard charging equipment for all SEA-Drive models features a three-phase 32A on-board charger with 5-pin plug, charging at up to 22kW/h. Optional DC to DC fast-charging increases the charging rate fourfold to 88kW/h.

The SEA-Drive chassis layout features unique in-chassis mounted batteries, which improve battery protection and driving dynamics by centralising weight, while maintaining front to rear weight distribution for optimal foundation braking performance. When combined with the patented SEA-Drive technology, these batteries produce class-leading ranges of up to 300km in some applications.

“We expect this figure to improve in the future as battery density continues to advance. This paves the way for the development of smaller, lighter and lower-cost batteries, or similar features to today‘s batteries except with longer range. The innovative modularity of the SEA-Drive® Power System allows these future benefits to be accessible to early adopters.” said Glen Walker, SEA Electric regional director for Oceania.

The Lithium-Ion Nickel Manganese Cobalt (LiNiMnCoO2) batteries are designed for 3500 charge cycles, based on a full overnight charge, which, if applied five days per week, can result in optimum performance for ten years.

It is envisioned that after time the battery would be replaced (much like a diesel engine is currently rebuilt) with the old battery capable of being re-deployed in either large scale storage farms as a part of the power grid or allowing for the storage and personal use of energy generated from residential solar arrays.

One of the key features of the SEA-Drive Power System is the use of regenerative braking, which not only tops up battery levels while the truck is in motion, but also saves significant wear on service brakes.

The SEA-Drive Power System provides both active and passive stage braking regeneration.

The first stage is engaged by turning the electric motor into a generator when coasting without any pedals depressed, slowing the truck and charging the battery, in essence, similar to a diesel engine‘s exhaust brake. The second stage is engaged during the initial depression of the brake pedal, whereby additional negative torque is applied to the motor. The traditional service brakes are then only utilised when the brake pedal is fully depressed as the vehicle stops.

Another significant capability of the SEA-Drive Power System is the electrification of all body ancillaries, such as refrigeration units or hydraulic systems, including those required on a tilt tray, garbage truck or elevating work platform.

This electrification has also seen existing trucks retrofitted with a SEA-Drive Power-Systems specified with standard 240V power points for work in the field. SEA Electric trucks can also be configured with optional SEA-Connect Telematics, providing secure insight into vehicle and driver performance.

“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 Walker.

“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.”

The trucks are currently on sale from 15 fully accredited SEA Electric dealers throughout Australia, which can also provide service and parts support, including any work carried out under the standard three-year warranty. Roadside assistance will be available via industry leading provider NTI for the life of the warranty period.