Tritium: the Australian start-up taking over Europe’s highways

CPO Paul Sernia talks entrepreneurial passion, sexy chargers, and the electric-vehicle revolution

The world’s most powerful EV charger pictured on site in Germany. Tritium’s Veefil-PK (175–475 kW) High-Power Charger will be rolled out at 100 more sites across Europe.

Hi Paul, 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. We’ve also developed a unique liquid cooling technology in our charging stations.

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.

Tritium’s David Finn accepts the 2018 Queensland Exporter of the Year award from Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaczszuk and Dylan Byrne from awards sponsor BDO.

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 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.

And what is the Tritium presence in Queensland?

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

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 local manufacturing companies that help us.

Congrats on Tritium taking out the exporter of the year award at this year’s Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards. Why did you enter?

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 great to engage with that community.

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.

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.

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 it’s really exciting.

You and your co-founders met as engineering students at university. Any advice for students who are dreaming of a global start-up?

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.

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.

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Trade and Investment Queensland is the Queensland government’s global business agency, helping Queensland exporters take their products to world markets, and promoting Queensland as the perfect place for investment.