Cheaper while greener

Sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Eco Can­ter is more af­ford­able

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Working Wheels - JAMES STAN­FORD james.stan­ford@cars­

HY­BRID trucks must be af­ford­able to be taken se­ri­ously.

Mit­subishi Fuso ob­vi­ously had this in mind when it de­vel­oped the sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion hy­brid Eco Can­ter. It’s not per­fect but it comes at a much more re­al­is­tic price.

To buy the first Eco Can­ter hy­brid, you had to pay a 40 per cent pre­mium over the stan­dard truck. This time, the pre­mium is just 14 per cent.

The first model was re­ally only bought by those who wanted to pro­ject a green im­age and were happy to wear the ex­tra cost.

This time around op­er­a­tors run­ning in cer­tain con­di­tions can ar­gue that buy­ing one makes both fi­nan­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal sense.

The green Can­ter runs the same 3.0-litre four-cylin­der turbo diesel (110kW/370Nm) as the reg­u­lar model. An elec­tric mo­tor be­tween the engine and the trans­mis­sion con­trib­utes 40kW/220Nm.

The elec­tric mo­tor lends as­sis­tance un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion and can even power the truck fully at low speeds, al­though the diesel still needs to tick over to pro­vide as­sis­tance to the steer­ing and other sys­tems.

As with car hy­brids, the Eco Can­ter col­lects en­ergy when it de­cel­er­ates and sends it to a bat­tery pack. Fuso has stuck with ad­vanced lithium ion bat­ter­ies but a new cell de­sign means they run cooler.

The fuel sav­ings from the hy­brid sys­tem very much de­pend on the way the truck is be­ing used. Fuso says that in stop-start con­di­tions, the Eco Can­ter could use up to 25 per cent less than the reg­u­lar model.

Work­ing Wheels drove the Can­ter in coun­try and city con­di­tions, run­ning along the Great Ocean Road from Lorne to the cen­tre of Gee­long.

It was too short a run to get a fuel read­ing, but it gave a good idea of what liv­ing with an Eco Can­ter would be like.

The over­all im­pres­sion was that this is a good truck that could be bet­ter.

Fuso de­cided to use the du­al­clutch au­to­mated man­ual trans­mis­sion, which is a fan­tas­tic gear­box when used with the reg­u­lar Can­ter.

It doesn’t work so well in the Eco Can­ter and our test truck changed gears in the strangest of places. Even af­ter a soft­ware re-flash, the au­to­matic still wasn’t as good as the last gen­er­a­tion sin­gle-clutch au­to­mated man­ual— and that wasn’t a great trans­mis­sion.

It’s not clear whether the more com­plex dual-clutch trans­mis­sion is too com­pli­cated to work well with the elec­tric mo­tor or whether it is a mat­ter of cal­i­bra­tion.

The Eco Can­ter cer­tainly has am­ple per­for­mance. The ac­cel­er­a­tion is ex­cel­lent and it works well enough at higher speeds too.

If you feather the throt­tle, it is pos­si­ble to use only the elec­tric mo­tor for mo­men­tum, but the diesel kicks in if you ac­cel­er­ate briskly. The elec­tric mo­tor seems nois­ier than the pre­vi­ous ex­am­ple and there is quite a whirr as revs build up.

The diesel engine cuts off when you pull up at an in­ter­sec­tion to save fuel. Lift your foot off the brake, the engine cranks up again and away you go.

Last time around the elec­tric mo­tor was used to crank the engine and it started ex­tremely quickly. This time around, the reg­u­lar starter mo­tor is used and it takes longer.

If you are the first per­son to move away from a set of lights, this is a prob­lem and you will hold peo­ple up. If you are sec­ond or fur­ther from the lights and get a lit­tle an­tic­i­pa­tion time, it won’t be an is­sue.

Fuso should look to sort the gear­box out but the other is­sues are not ma­jor.

The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Eco Can­ter is not quite as easy to live with as nor­mal Can­ter but it is su­per-ef­fi­cient and, for the first time, af­ford­able.

That alone means it’s wor­thy of a test drive.

Re­duc­tion gear: The maker claims the Eco Can­ter can use 25 per cent less fuel than the reg­u­lar model but the trans­mis­sion can be prob­lem­atic

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