Kings Transport

Many an Australian operator has questioned the viability of electric vehicles in the country’s wide-open, typically long haul industry, yet it is in the nation’s freight capital of Melbourne that the world’s first large-scale investment in the electric vehicle technology has been made. In July 2017, metropolitan transport specialist, Kings Transport, took delivery of the first in an order of nine fully electric medium-duty trucks from fellow Victorian company, SEA Electric.

The locally developed 11-tonne rigid trucks have an estimated range of just under 200km per charge and are based on an existing cab chassis retrofitted with SEA Electric’s modular ‘SEA-Drive’ driveline technology.

“[Our product line-up is] targeted at the small- to medium–sized commercial vehicle segment, where transport businesses operate relatively fixed-route applications with overnight layovers, which is the perfect application for electric vehicles,” SEA Electric Executive Chairman, Tony Fairweather, says – adding that the SEA-Drive system was entirely developed in Australia.

Referring to an announcement by Volvo Cars that all of the company’s new models from 2019 will include an element of electric vehicle technology, Fairweather says the time has come for the internal combustion engine to make way for a more efficient, emission-free alternative.

Agrees Kings Transport CEO, Tony Mellick, who says fleets have an obligation to drive technological change and be an enabler in reducing carbon emissions.

“We’re looking at the grand scheme and I am 100 per cent positive that we will eventually have a carbon tax – what form it takes, the politicians will decide,” Mellick says. “When that happens, we’re at the forefront: we will have the ability to act as a partner that can demonstrate a real reduction in emissions and add value to our partners’ operations. That puts us in good stead with them to retain and win their business.”

As a specialist in metropolitan transport tasks, Mellick says the business is perfectly set up to benefit from electric trucks, dismissing the long-range capability question that is so often raised. “Kings has a fleet of around 2,000 vehicles, 500 of which are owned and 1,500 are subcontracted, all working in metro or short haul intrastate deliveries, so the 200km range is suitable,” Mellick says. “The SEA Electric technology is built for start-stop traffic and hilly terrain and only takes four to six hours to charge between use.”

The vehicles charge off a three-phase power socket, which Mellick says means there is no additional infrastructure required, as most commercial premises would likely already have the power for the likes of electric forklifts. He adds that the SEA Electric trucks drive “like a big golf cart” with only two pedals and no gearbox, and only require minimal driver training.

“The important difference is understanding how the regenerative braking powers of the system work,” he says. “When you take your foot off the accelerator, it acts like a brake and the system generates electric energy that is used to recharge the truck’s batteries.”

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