There are many reasons to reduce emissions in your fleet though your organisation might not be ready, or suitable, for the transition to electric trucks. So how do you take the first steps in planning for the future of zero emission transport with an electric vehicle?
One of the options is to look at the Hino Electric Hybrid which has been on the market for 15 years and is now available with a 4th generation hybrid powertrain. It’s available in the 300 Series as a cab chassis or in the Built to Go range with a TradeAce setup or a standard alloy tray.
I had the opportunity to take the TraceAce version for day in Sydney and tried to replicate the driving activity of a delivery vehicle (not a courier which would be more stops and starts). The main goal was to test the claim from Hino that the hybrid powertrain was significantly more fuel efficient than the diesel version. So I had someone follow me in an identical diesel truck to do a comparison.
If case you’re in a hurry, I can tell you the results now. Then I’ll let you know what it’s like to drive with an AMT and hybrid electric powertrain.
The Hino Hybrid Electric 300 Series with a Built to Go TradeAce body was 24% more fuel efficient than the diesel version on my route around southwest Sydney which is better than Hino’s claim of 22%.
An obvious benefit of a reduction in fuel in this magnitude are the financial savings. The more critical benefit for fleets in 2023 is the reduction in CO2 which will help companies with a target to reduce their carbon emissions from transport activities without the additional expense and charging complexity of an electric truck.
What’s it like to drive?
Initially I hated the AMT (Automated Manual Transmission). Hino’s automatic transmissions do a fantastic job in making trucks drive like a car. The 300 Series automatics are smooth and enjoyable. I had forgotten how to drive an AMT so the first few kilometres were not comfortable.
Once I remembered it’s not a full automatic, and paid attention to the engine RPM, I got reacquainted with the AMT and the driving became more enjoyable.
It’s a very different hybrid experience compared to a passenger vehicle or SUV. The hybrid contribution is barely noticeable while driving and the diesel engine is always involved. If you take off with a very gentle application of the throttle it will travel silently for a short distance, but it doesn’t take much to activate the diesel engine.
The AMT almost forces you to drive economically by shifting into sixth gear as fast as possible. The theory is similar to what they teach in eco-driving courses; get to highest gear as fast as possible to reduce fuel consumption. It feels like you’re frequently in the wrong gear (you can use the manual shifter to change down a gear) though after driving the hybrid electric for several hours I lost the urge to downshift and went with the flow.
A benefit of any electric motor is the instant torque. It’s the one thing that surprises people when they drive an EV for the first time. In a truck, torque is your best friend and the benefits of the hybrid system were obvious when climbing an incline. The diesel engine was able to purr at low RPM while the hybrid system did the heavy lifting.
You don’t get silent motoring with the Hino hybrid electric because it still has a diesel engine. But the lack of load on the diesel while travelling through the few hilly section of my journey made the trip less stressful and contributed to reduced the fatigue by the end of the day.
After several hours I had adapted to the ATM and was making the most of the hybrid powertrain. The more I leaned into the eco-driving being forced upon me by electronic controls, the lower the average L/100km became.
Hino knows the hybrid solution has a limited life until alternative fuels (i.e. electricity or hydrogen) become popular in fleets. Until then, a hybrid electric truck is a great option to reduce your fuel consumption in your fleet by 24%.