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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.”

By Neil Dowling

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