Driving electric trucks forward

An SEA Electric truck: SEA Electric began in Melbourne 10 years ago and has gone on to have success in faster adoption markets such as the EU and North America. Photo by Daneka Hill

The trucking industry has made a decision about its future: electric needs to happen.

On January 18 the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) revealed they’d worked together to create the policies desperately needed to make electric freight vehicles take off.

EVC chief executive Behyad Jafari said the AdBlue shortage crisis was a potential warning about Australia’s extreme fuel insecurity.

“Why should Australia be dependent on China and the Middle East to keep itself moving when we could be using homegrown power?” Mr Jafari said.

ATA association chair David Smith said it cost $177 to fuel a diesel truck for 300km, but just $18 for an electric truck.

“If Australia gets left behind on the transition to electric and zero emission trucks, we risk our supply chains and exporters getting stuck with high, globally uncompetitive per km freight costs,” Mr Smith said.

The ATA and EVC also say electric adoption will end volatile diesel costs, reduce maintenance costs, improve urban efficiency and deliver better conditions for truck drivers.

Right now Australia is lagging behind the developed world when it comes to electric truck adoption.

Of the 58 electric truck models being manufactured, only 14 are available to the Australian market, signalling to the ATA and EVC that reform is urgently needed domestically.

Founded in Melbourne but now headquartered in California, SEA Electric was one of the stakeholders ATA and EVC worked closely with while drafting the policy agreement.

SEA Electric Asia-Pacific region president Bill Gillespie said the Australian industry would need “encouragement and leadership” to create a viable pathway towards zero-emissions truck adoption.

SEA Electric started producing all-electric trucks and truck components in Australia in 2021, becoming the first manufacturer in the world to release a comprehensive range of EV solutions.

In December the business announced an agreement to supply Midwest Transit Equipment with 10,000 systems for use in North American school buses, showing how the technology is taking off faster outside Australia.

Key recommendations from the ATA and EVC policy agreement include:

• exempting electric trucks from urban curfews;

• changing Australian weight and width limits to accommodate batteries;

• increasing Australia’s steer axle mass limit by one tonne so larger electric truck models can be deployed (currently the weight of the batteries is keeping them from meeting the 6.5 tonne limit);

• exempting electric trucks from stamp duty;

• mandating Euro VI emissions standards for all new heavy vehicle models from 2024; and

• investment in public charging infrastructure to support on-route electric truck charging.