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Report From Japan

HAMURA, Japan - Hino has developed a new Class 4 medium-duty conventional hybrid truck for the North American market. The new vehicle employs a diesel/electric engine that consumes up to 30% less fuel...


HAMURA, Japan – Hino has developed a new Class 4 medium-duty conventional hybrid truck for the North American market. The new vehicle employs a diesel/electric engine that consumes up to 30% less fuel than traditional medium-duty vehicles, the company claims, while also reducing particulate matter (PM) by 85%.

The hybrid system includes a generator that stores braking force, converting it to electricity, which is then returned to the driveline to help power the vehicle during acceleration. The system uses key functionality parts (including the battery pack) that are common with the Toyota Prius hybrid passenger car as a way to make access to replacement parts more convenient and also cost-effective.

Hino officials acknowledge the cost of the Hino 165 Hybrid is currently prohibitive for most North American customers. Domestic production COE hybrids, for instance, cost about $13,000 more than traditional models.

Koichi Yamaguchi, manager, hybrid vehicle development department, says Hino hopes government will step up to the plate and help offset the cost premium. That’s the case in Japan, where the federal government and an industry trade group cover 75% of the cost premium incurred by fleets that buy hybrid vehicles. The remaining 25% can be recouped quite quickly thanks to the improvement in fuel economy and also a 30% extension in brake life, Hino says.

Tamotsu Kiuchi, chief engineer, North American Truck Product Planning Division, says fleets generally see a 50% reduction in their life-cycle costs when operating hybrids as opposed to traditional medium-duty trucks.

During development of the Hino 165 Hybrid, the company was able to draw on a long history of hybrid vehicle development. Hino introduced the world’s first hybrid urban city bus in 1991. It currently offers medium-duty cabover engines domestically, where about 1,000 of these are sold per year (thanks largely to the Japanese subsidies).

One of the greatest challenges faced by Hino engineers was making the vehicle perform like a traditional non-hybrid truck.

“Most large fleets prefer to have the same drive feeling as normal trucks but they also want good fuel efficiency,” says Yamaguchi. “So we had to lower emissions, improve fuel efficiency and we also had to maintain the feel of a normal truck.”

He adds this has been achieved, as even a seasoned veteran would have difficulty noticing any difference in the feel of the vehicle compared to a traditional non-hybrid truck. Motortruck was among the first to ride in the Hino 165 Hybrid at the company’s 2.4 km oval test track at Hamura, Japan. The vehicle shifted seamlessly between diesel and electric power on the high-banked track.

A dash-mounted monitor indicating the power flow was often the only way to determine whether the power source was electricity or diesel at any given time.

The demonstration truck weighs about 880 lbs more than a non-hybrid, but that extra weight will continue to decrease as the product is developed, Hino officials say. The truck is best suited for urban delivery applications where frequent stopping and starting is required.

Yamaguchi says the Hino 165 Hybrid will begin on-road testing in the U.S. in early 2005.mt


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