Fuso hybrid work changes game

ON THE ROAD: Super Great hybrid in Japan now and being used for metropolitan delivery work.
ON THE ROAD: Super Great hybrid in Japan now and being used for metropolitan delivery work.

FUSO took us to this year's Tokyo Motor Show for a couple of reasons. First, it was a revealing show of true grit after the decimating damage from what is now called "The Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster".

Second, and most importantly, Fuso is making a game-changing play into unexplored green territory, and it wants the truck world to sit up and take notice. Message received and understood.

There are now three streams to Fuso's development of eco-friendly transport solutions - a new Canter all-electric on sale in Japan now for metropolitan delivery work; next year's Canter Hybrid, which is a finely tweaked development of the current model; and most significantly for Australia, the new "Super Great" prime mover and rigid, which features Daimler's new 6-cylinder global HD engine design as the primary drive. It will be the first hybrid power train to be seen in the Australian heavy-duty sector, and I think it has the potential to change some long-held transport industry conventions.

The Fuso initiative needs to be seen as a lot more than a punt by Japan's third truck builder. Fuso has been designated by Stuttgart as the centre of hybrid design and development for the entire Daimler Truck world, which includes Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner and Western Star.

So the matching of Mercedes-Benz's new generation of 6-cylinder HD engines to an electric supplement is a lot bigger than an Asian market beat-up.

Mr Genichiro Ishii is the head of the Global Hybrid Centre and he told me that in testing, the new driveline system slashed 10% from diesel usage. Although that's less than Canter Hybrid savings, the heavy-duty model will be clocking much bigger operating distances and bigger payloads. And 10% of an interstate fuel bill is a lot of cash.

But he told me that with tuning before release, "I'm quite confident we will see more. Probably 12-14%," he said.

If your annual fuel bill is half a million dollars, that's a cool $60,000 extra cash in the till.

Technically the system is similar to Hino's new 300 series hybrid. The electronic control unit "listens" to the driver through the throttle, and meets the torque requirement with the most fuel-efficient combination from both the diesel engine and electric motor, depending on the state of the battery pack.

Under maximum torque demand, the electric motor could be engaged for around 90 seconds, at which point the battery would be discharged to its base limit of 30%. The system would then disengage the electric motor and revert to diesel power only.

Think of it this way - instead of climbing Cunningham's with your new Fuso diesel banging away flat out, for a minute and a half you will only be using part throttle, but getting the same result. Then topping up the battery on the downhill. Do that on every hill and you do pretty well on fuel savings, especially on the undulating roads in regional areas.

It will be more expensive than the standard truck, but this Fuso will set yet another essential benchmark in the industry-wide quest for innovative, high technology solutions to cost saving pressures in transport.

Big Rigs