The new Mitsubishi Fuso Canter Eco-Hybrid commercial truck combines a small, clean-burning diesel engine, an ultra-slim electric motor/generator, and advanced lithium-ion batteries in a drivetrain that also includes an automated mechanical transmission. The result is a medium-duty truck that achieves up to 30% better fuel economy in delivery applications, the maker says, and also produces significantly fewer emissions than a standard diesel-only model – nitrous oxides and particulate matter are down by 41% and 46% respectively.

The Canter hybrid was shown in North America back in March, more recently at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Germany, in both cases as a “concept” vehicle to gauge public interest. However, with government incentives behind it, the truck will be sold in the Japanese market this fall, where it’s the only truck so far to meet that country’s next round of emissions regulations due in August of next year.

It’s not yet 100% certain that the Eco-Hybrid will make it to North America, but seems very likely. The class 3/4 diesel Canter is also sold here as the Sterling 360. In an interview during the IAA show, Mitsubishi Fuso president and CEO Harald Boelstler could not say if the Sterling version would also get the hybrid treatment. “Maybe,” he said, .

The truck has a parallel hybrid system, coupling a conventional diesel engine with an electric motor/generator. It’s new, but the individual components are all proven designs. The 123-hp turbocharged diesel engine is the same one used in the company’s conventional medium-duty trucks in Japan for several years. It’s linked to a 47-hp, brushless, permanent-magnet synchronous electric motor/generator. It, too, has been field-proven in a number of applications, Mitsubishi says. Power from both sources is carried through a Mitsubishi Fuso Inomat II automated mechanical transmission similar to the ones that have been used in Fuso class 8 trucks for a decade.

The hybrid system switches drive mode according to the situation, the electric motor used when starting off. During hard acceleration, both the diesel engine and electric motor/generator power the vehicle. When cruising, the diesel is on its own. Like other similar hybrids, the Canter features regenerative braking — the generator converts brake energy into electric energy and stores it in the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery.

In the Fuso Eco-Hybrid, every time the driver lifts his foot off the throttle, the diesel engine is taken offline (that is, the clutch is disengaged) and an inverter automatically switches the electric motor/generator into generator mode, feeding electrical power to the batteries. Instead of converting the kinetic energy of the truck into waste heat, it’s converted into electrical energy that’s stored onboard, and then re-used by the electric drive motor.

While not exactly a household name, Mitsubishi has over 80,000 trucks on the road in North America. Of its 165 dealers here, 20 are Canadian.

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