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Victorian EV conversion company secures CEFC backing

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A Victorian company that converts commercial trucks and vans from internal combustion engines to fully electric vehicles is set to scale up its business after securing $5 million in finance from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s Clean Energy Innovation Fund.

SEA Range

The CEFC said on Monday that SEA Electric was expected to use the finance to ramp up its manufacture of electric drive systems models that can be fitted to commercial vehicles, allowing them to be converted to 100 per cent electric operation.

SEA Electric integrates and assembles electric vehicle drive systems into a basic chassis and framework, including the cab, battery pack and electric motor, as well as the electronic infrastructure of the vehicle.

The technology can be applied to businesses providing express freight, general delivery, and waste collection services around Australia, the CEFC said.

“Electric vehicles are a very exciting part of our clean energy transition, and offer significant potential to reduce our overall carbon emissions,” said CEFC transaction lead Melanie Madders on Monday.

“Emissions from light vehicles already make up as much as 10 per cent of Australia’s total emissions, with overall transport activity expected to continue to grow in the future,” she said.

“The development of cost-effective ways to transition commercial vehicles to lower emissions technologies is paramount for cutting national carbon emissions.”

SEA executive chair Tony Fairweather said the finance would help meet growing demand for the company’s technology.

“Australia has the potential to become a global leader in the rapidly emerging electric vehicle industry, and this finance will help SEA Electric be part of that revolution,” Fairweather said.

“Vans and medium-duty trucks are suited to electric vehicle technology because businesses using them typically have relatively fixed and known route distances and vehicles return to base overnight,
which allows for recharging,” he said.

“With ongoing decreases in the cost of lithium batteries, our electric drive systems are becoming increasingly cost competitive with equivalent petrol or diesel engines, which means that businesses
using these vans and trucks can consider 100 per cent electric vehicles on a commercial basis as well as for their environmental benefits.”

“The CEFC and ARENA’s support through the Clean Energy Innovation Fund is critical for us to achieve the next step in our business growth and will help us purchase inventory needed to fulfil
orders for our electric vehicles,” Fairweather added.  

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  • Ian

    So, by conversion, I assume that means for example, a delivery van that is say less than 10 years old, that has a clapped out diesel motor might be a good candidate for conversion. .? It will be interesting to see what would be the costs…

    • Peter Campbell

      As one who has converted a small car, I can say the answer is highly variable. Much depends on how much range you want or need. A big battery adds a lot of cost. As the article says, a commercial vehicle might have a very consistent range requirement so the battery could be sized to be just sufficient. A certain amount also depends on what sort of performance you want. A more expensive motor and motor controller can take a lot more current and gives a lot more torque. A limitation is how much battery can be fitted while remaining well within the gross vehicle mass and having enough left over for the expected cargo. For one business the cargo might be heavy and compact; for another it might be bulky and relatively light.

      • Ian

        We are thinking about using one for a campervan for around au. Some pv on the roof. Around 50 kWh battery and we could go anywhere the sun shines without plugging in

        • Peter Campbell

          That’s appealing but do your sums re surface area. For my small car I worked out I could get about 300W of PV cells surface mounted onto the bonnet and roof. Bearing in mind that it will not ever be at an optimum angle, I worked out that it would not add a lot of useful range. I think it might usefully top up a largish 12V battery system thereby minimising the need for the 12V system to be a draw on the traction battery via a DC-DC converter, but that is about it.
          Some have envisaged ordinary converted cars with a roof rack and a couple of domestic panels on that roof rack. The received wisdom is that the amount of energy you could harvest is barely enough to make up for the reduced aerodynamics. Perhaps with ultra slim panels and a clever folding arrangement to get a larger area when parked?
          Some people I know were thinking of a converted 4WD cross-desert trip but they were planning to pull a trailer with enough PV panels to set up a substantial array for charging through the middle of the day and drive during morning and evening, but still they did not expect to do long distances each day.
          I would be a inclined towards thinking about what could be done with something like a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. It is already set up as a good short range EV but has petrol range extension. If you can pack a folding PV array and perhaps some extra battery you might be able to do a fair bit of solar charging along the way.

          • Ian

            Understood. And ta for your insights.
            Yes thinking along lines of the slim and lightweight polycarbonate? panels by the ‘Sun King’ currently traded by energus I think. A sliding folding array doubling as an awning.etc. I have a 3d design background.
            Thinking if 1 kWh pv /day thats 15-20 km/day. When on holidays there’s no rush to charge.
            And a plug as a backup!

  • George Darroch

    So: How much?