Green and bear it
Government incentives can ease hybrid pain, writesGRAHAMSMITH
GOVERNMENTS must provide some form of incentive for truck operators to adopt hybrid drive. Speaking at the launch of Hino’s latest hybrid model, company chairman John Conomos says governments have to kick-start demand for hybrids by offering truck operators incentives to buy the more expensive trucks — just as they did with the LPG rebate for motorists.
The cost of going green with a new 300 Series hybrid truck is around $12,000 more than a similar conventional diesel, which is a big ask for operators already struggling to turn a profit.
While they would make substantial savings on their fuel costs in the long term with the hybrid truck, paying a premium in the form of a higher purchase price is proving a major disincentive for all but the big operators who want to make a visible statement.
That could change, Conomos says, if governments get behind hybrid trucks and provide buyers with incentives to buy them.
Those incentives could be in the form of a direct rebate to offset the purchase price up front, a cut in sales tax, or reduced annual registration fees to cut running costs.
Conomos championed hybrids when he was working for Toyota and is now doing the same after moving to its truck making offshoot, Hino.
Australia is the first country outside Japan to sell the new 300 Series hybrid truck after successfully testing the previous hybrid based on the old Dutro light truck.
In those tests, a Dutro hybrid run by TNT in Sydney demonstrated that on an application involving lots of stop-start driving it could save 20 or more per cent fuel, which means less CO2 greenhouse gas is being emitted into the atmosphere and cut NOx and particulate matter.
Hino’s in-house testing suggests fuel savings and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, are closer to 30 per cent than TNT’s figure.
While Hino’s system employs a combination of a diesel engine and an electric motor, the system could work equally well with an engine running on LPG, CNG, or even a hydrogen fuel cell in the future, making it even cleaner.
‘‘Hybrid is the most important development in the automotive industry since the introduction of the internal combustion engine. It will determine the path of car and truck technology well into the 21st century regardless of the fuel that is used,’’ Conomos says.
While the current hybrids use either a petrol engine or a diesel for their primary power source, the hybrid system can and will work just as effectively with virtually any other power source.
‘‘Hybrid drivetrain is all encompassing, it doesn’t refer only to petrol-electric or petrol-diesel. It is capable of being incorporated with any fuel source,’’ he says.
Hino has been working on hybrids for more than 20 years and leads the world in the technology.
It will lead the way going forward, but governments need to play their part in helping the market take it up.
‘‘If governments don’t embrace hybrid technology and effectively encourage it, the transport industry and those who rely on it are in risk of falling way behind and perhaps losing valuable opportunities,’’ he says.
Conomos adds while the Federal Government deserves credit for its support of hybrid technology with grants to Toyota for the development and rollout of the system in passenger cars here, it mustn’t end there.
There must be incentives for the public and industry to embrace the technology, he says.
Green team: (left to right) Hino Australia’s CEO Steve Lotter, chairman John Conomos and president Junsuke Ando with the green Hino hybrid truck at the completion of the 24-hour Hino Hybrid Marathon.