CPO Paul Sernia explains why this Australian company is the world’s leading designer of fast chargers for electric cars.

Tritium’s Veefil-PK charger

The world’s most powerful EV charger — Tritium’s Veefil-PK (175–475 kW) High-Power Charger — pictured on site in Germany. Adding 150km driving range in 5 minutes, they will be rolled out at 100 more sites across Europe.

Paul, congrats on Tritium taking out the big prize at this year’s Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards. As Tritium’s Chief Product Officer and a co-founder, can you give us your elevator pitch?

Sure [drumroll]… Tritium is a technology company and we design the world’s leading fast-charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs).

What makes our products different is the technology that we’ve developed that goes inside them, and also the team that we’ve built around our products and services. We’ve been working on this technology for almost 20 years now.

And what is your technical point of difference?

We’re very small, we’re very lightweight, we have very compact designs that make it easy for our customers to locate them in all sorts of locations where space is at a premium, and also make it very easy for them to install those charging stations. We also focus a lot on the guest experience, the user interaction, making sure that it’s a really great experience for drivers, as well as a great experience for the owners and operators who need to use these every day.

We’ve developed a unique liquid cooling technology in our charging stations — it’s the only liquid-cooled DC charging station in the world. We also have the highest environmental rating … we are completely water- and dust-protected as well … so all of these things add up to making it easy to install and operate the charging stations and really reducing the total cost of ownership.

David Finn, Paul Sernia, and James Kennedy

Tritium founders David Finn (Chief Executive Officer), Paul Sernia (Chief Product Officer) and James Kennedy (Chief Technology Officer), with the Veefil-RT 50kW DC Fast Charger, able to charge a car to 80% in 30 minutes.

Your chargers look very sleek and streamlined in the photos I’ve seen. Are you also the sexiest EV charger around?!

Yes, absolutely, we’re the best-looking electric-vehicle chargers on the market, which is always nice! Public charging stations almost have a bit of a petrol bowser feel, [whereas] ours are quite small and compact, and really friendly and approachable.

And where are EV chargers typically located?

What we really want to do is enable people to recharge where it’s most convenient for them, so where there are destinations that you’re travelling to for other purposes — where you’ll be parked — there should be an opportunity to recharge at the same time.

Having said that, sometimes you’re driving down the highway, you’re taking a long journey, and you need charging in your traditional petrol station locations.

How important is the export market for Tritium?

We’re highly focused on the export market. Our markets are the countries and geographies where electric vehicle activity is strongest.

Ninety-eight per cent of our revenue last financial year came from exports, with our major markets being the USA, UK and Norway.

Tritium's manufacturing facility

Tritium’s skilled staff at work at their Murarrie manufacturing facility in Brisbane.

How are you continuing to expand your global footprint?

We’ve opened offices in Amsterdam and Los Angeles to be closer to our customers, to service them better, and I think we’re slowly building up a reputation in the industry as a leader in this field. It’s about understanding the true problems that drivers and charging network operators are going to face, and having some really great solutions for them.

I think part of our success is that, whilst we’re all the way over here in Australia, the quality of the product and the performance of the product really drive our customers to engage with us.

And what is the Tritium presence in Queensland?

The vast majority of our manufacturing happens here in Brisbane in our Murarrie facility. All of our research and development occurs here in Brisbane as well, and all of our global activities, like sales and marketing and supply chain — all of that’s located and coordinated here in Brisbane.

In total we’re around 230 staff at the moment, and almost 200 of those are located in Queensland.

Veefil-RT chargers

Tritium at home — Veefil-RT chargers like these dot the Queensland coast as part of the Queensland Electric Super Highway, charging electric vehicles all the way from Coolangatta to Cairns.

Some people think you need to leave Queensland to succeed globally, especially in tech, but you’re still here. Why is that?

Because we’ve built up a really great team of people here, we do have access to talent, we have the export capability here in Queensland to support the supply chain, and we have a number of local manufacturing companies that help us.

But I think it does come with its challenges, and it’s really just a matter of working through those and, at the end of the day, trying to be a bit creative and a bit innovative to maintain that competitive edge.

You’re already so successful — why did you enter the export awards?

For me, I think it’s really important that we recognise the achievements of the Tritium team and the hard work that’s gone into everything that we’ve done.

I also think it’s important to be part of the export community; we face common challenges and I think it’s a great way of engaging in that community.

And I think it’s also a great way for people to understand what we do. We’re the sole manufacturer in the entire country … and I think it’s really important that people understand that this type of business can happen and can thrive from Australia and in Queensland.

Tritium wins Exporter of the Year

Tritium’s David Finn accepts the 2018 Queensland Exporter of the Year award from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaczszuk.

Can you fill us in on what’s next for electric cars?

We’re just at the beginning of this market and it has huge potential.

Just to give you some idea, it’s taken us 7 years to reach 4 million electric vehicles on the road worldwide but, in the next 12 months, we’re going to put another million cars on the road. I think there are lots of great things to come.

We see this overseas in leading markets like Norway, where almost 25% of vehicles on the road are electric cars. You start to really see a glimpse of what the future could be like, the benefits this type of transport will bring to us. And it’s coming — all of the automotive companies are announcing electric vehicle models; over the next few years we’ll move to hundreds of different types of electric vehicles that consumers can buy, and I think all of that is really exciting.

You and your two co-founders met as engineering students on a solar-car challenge at university. Any advice for a student with stars in their eyes and dreams of a global start-up?

I think everybody takes their own path and you don’t have to form your start-up straight out of uni, you can take your time! I think the important thing at each stage in your career is to do something that you enjoy, that you’re passionate about. That’s the path to success.

And for Queensland companies thinking about entering export markets?

You should always think globally. In most markets, Australia is 2% of the opportunities, so if you have something that has potential to be global, always be focused on the end game.

Tritium won both Queensland Exporter of the Year and the Manufacturing Award at the Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards 2018.

TIQ has worked with Tritium on its expansion into overseas markets. If you’d like advice or support for your export plans, connect with TIQ today.