Clean, lean Hino
Driving a hybrid requires new skills, writes James Stanford
SMALL hybrid trucks are starting to gain momentum, with more companies keen to be seen cutting emissions.
Hino’s hybrid has been disadvantaged by being available only as a manual, but that was rectified when Hino introduced an automatic version.
This truck is easier on drivers who have to operate a clutch all day every day. It could also save fuel in the real world.
Of course, the manual hybrid should be the best model for saving fuel if the person behind the wheel drives in the most economical way, but this is not always the case.
A hybrid doesn’t drive like the traditional Japanese truck that needs to be revved hard to get any-
‘‘ On one occasion the gearbox simply refused to change down going up a long and steep hill
where at a reasonable pace. The extra electric assistance means the driver can move along quite nicely at lower revs, but drivers who have been piloting small Japanese trucks for years could take time to adjust.
This is highlighted by the fact that TNT has hired driver training specialists DECA to teach its hybrid drivers how to get the best out of the new vehicles.
The new automatic Hino makes it easier to drive more efficiently because it shifts far more economically than most drivers.
Big Wheels tested the new truck. Apart from the big Hybrid branding on the front and sides of the truck, you would not pick this as a hybrid at first look.
A second look would probably pick up a metal box attached to the front left side of the chassis beneath the tray, stamped with the word Hybrid. This is the battery pack.
The battery uses the same technology — nickel metal hydride, which has been proven over several years — as the Toyota Prius car.
This feeds an electric motor that provides assistance to the diesel engine under acceleration, providing up to 36kW and 360Nm.
The diesel engine is a 4.0-litre common-rail turbodiesel that generates 100kW at 3000rpm and 350Nm at 1000rpm and uses exhaust gas recirculation.
When you first hop into the Hino, you notice it looks just like any other 300-series truck.
The only hint you get is the term Hybrid on the instrument cluster, special markings on the tacho and hybrid function lights.
I twist the key and fire up the engine. It sounds like any other diesel. Unlike car hybrids, you can’t creep forward without the regular engine going.
In a few seconds I’m in traffic. The Hino is carrying a couple of tonne of gravel in the back, but it is no slouch.
There is a good amount of torque down low in the rev range that you really do notice in low-speed traffic.
The tacho has a green band from 1000-2000 revs, which is where Hino recommends you stay for the best economy.
If the traffic isn’t moving too fast and the road is fairly flat, you can manage this.
When you have to move faster, or tackle a hill, it is almost impossible to stay in the green zone.
The automatic transmission works well, but it isn’t perfect. It understandably shifts up early for the best fuel economy, but in some cases it is too early and you find yourself pressing the accelerator down to trigger the transmission to shift down.
On one occasion the gearbox simply refused to change down going up a long and steep hill, despite the engine revs dropping to 1300revs and the truck slowing considerably.
Although it isn’t perfect, the automatic does make driving so much easier, especially if you are in the truck for long periods.
The Hino is easy to drive generally, with excellent visibility and responsive steering.
There is no fuel use calculator on board, which is a shame. It would be good for the driver to see the consumption number and try to get it as low as possible.
Some hybrid drivers don’t even know how much they use because their employers don’t pass on the figures.
This isn’t an expensive feature, especially given the cost of the hybrid technology underneath.
You do know when the engine is charging the battery, thanks to a Charge light, which encourages you to back off earlier and let the engine work to save fuel.
There is room for improvement, and the next generation of these hybrids will move the technology along, but driving the Hino Hybrid automatic is an easy way to make a green contribution.
Just ducky: the Hino Hybrid makes it easy to be green.