The EV revolution is here. But some companies are doing better than others to carry forward the much needed innovation in this space. Victoria, Australia-based SEA Electric is one of the names that pop up when a debate on EV innovation ensues.
SEA Electric was started by Tony Fairweather in Australia in 2012. He set out to establish his own business after doing splendidly as the General Manager of TNT Express, when the idea of SEA Electric struck him. The company quickly expanded into New Zealand, South East Asia, South Africa and has established an eviable position in the U.S. market. The company is looking for a European push in 2021.We interviewed him recently to know more about the company’s past, present, and near future.
Q. Brief us about SEA Electric’s development through the years.
SEA Electric was founded in Australia in 2012. We are an automotive technology company that has created proprietary electric power-system technology (known as SEA-Drive®) for the world’s urban delivery and distribution fleets.
After 5 years of product development and field testing, we launched its first model in 2017, once the cost of lithium-ion dropped below the USD300/kWh threshold. Since then SEA Electric has released 7 x SEA-Drive® models, to power rear-wheel drive cargo vans/commuter buses and cab/chassis trucks from 3.5t (7,700 lbs) GVM to 29t (64,000 lbs) GVM.
SEA Electric has now deployed its products in 5 countries with collectively more than 1.6 million kms (1 million miles) of independently OEM tested and in-service operation. We are widely recognised as the market leader in the electrification of commercial vehicles.
Q. What differentiates SEA Electric from its competitors?
We determined an automotive target market for our technology right from inception and developed a power-system technology that suited those market needs – based on COST, MASS and DUTY-CYCLE.
Q. What was your first launch and how was that a breakthrough?
Our first SEA-Drive® power-system was released in early 2017, on an imported Chinese glider chassis. The local press covered the news; it resulted in direct contact by ISUZU Australia and a proceeding 2-years testing and evaluation program. This independent testing provided SEA Electric with absolute confidence in the technology and attracted the attention from other OEM’s and global partners.
Q. Tell us about SEA-Drive® technology. How is it unique?
SEA-Drive® is developed specifically for the urban delivery and distribution automotive segment, and as such, takes into consideration the requirements of this segment into the EV technology design. Prior to development, we evaluated those needs extensively, both on- and off-vehicle, and then mandated certain design and performance outcomes.
The result is a simple design, which enables ease of operation, support and assembly. Complex functions used in other segments of the EV industry have been designed to reduce weight and cost, and improve performance efficiency. Our focus on documentation and standardisation enables global reach and scalability, as does the ability to adapt each power-system readily to any glider vehicle in each class.
Q. You seem to work more with Hino and Ford models?
Our power-system range is agnostic to the OEM glider platform in which it is installed. The reality is that some OEM’s are more progressive and flexible in this space.
Hino collaborated with us later than others did. However, we have expedited their activity since. SEA Electric now has formal agreements with Hino Japan and Australia, and 12 select Hino dealerships within Australia, to assemble SKD (Semi Knock Down) kits and distribute as electric commercial vehicles nationally. We have a similar intent for the US.
Ford on the other hand is focussing on its own EV development on the lighter duty and passenger car segment, and hence it needed third-party power-system support in the heavier vehicle segment, for which we have solutions.
Q. What is the rationale behind starting SEA Foundation?
The SEA Foundation was created by the shareholders of SEA Electric to make a difference in the areas of environmental and social sustainability. That being said the SEA Foundation’s reach is far greater with its philanthropic work and its charitable endeavour has had a positive impact on humanity.
Meet the Founder
Tony Fairweather, President and Founder
He entered the corporate world as the Production Manager of Coca Cola Amatil (CCA) in Australia. After five years at CCA, he moved into Management Consulting while working with Mercuri Urval. He had the opportunity to head business units within TNT Express (in two states) as the company’s General Manager. In this position, he managed a $45 million business with 170 employees under him and helped integrate two depots in Queensland to create a $50 million a year business with 400 employees operating a fleet of 130 medium-heavy road transport vehicles.
He has a Master’s of Business in Entrepreneurship and an MBA in International Business from Swinburne University of Technology.