Hy­brid with view of the fu­ture

The Advertiser - Motoring - - Big Wheels - JAMES STAN­FORD

BIG Wheels has been on a TNT de­liv­ery run to see how hy­brid tech­nol­ogy works in everyday con­di­tions. Mel­bourne TNT Ex­press de­liv­ery driver An­drew Macdon­ald was kind enough to let me sit in the passenger seat of the Hino hy­brid van as he com­pleted his run that cov­ers the cen­tral busi­ness district of the city.

His day starts at about 7.30am at TNT’s Laver­ton de­pot where parcels are picked from a con­veyor belt. He then loads his van care­fully to make sure the items to be de­liv­ered last go in first.

By 9.30am it’s time to leave the de­pot and head for the city.

The drive into town is the long­est sin­gle stretch the truck will do for the day. An­drew’s route in­cludes de­liv­er­ing in the con­gested heart of Mel­bourne and the de­liv­ery points can be just hun­dreds of me­tres apart.

He won’t ac­tu­ally clock up a heap of kilo­me­tres. De­spite driv­ing from 9am to 7pm with a one-hour lunch break, An­drew usu­ally only does around 50km.

The Hino hy­brid has a 4.0litre turbo diesel en­gine and a 23kW elec­tric mo­tor that as­sists the reg­u­lar en­gine on ac­cel­er­a­tion which means the driver doesn’t need to rev it as hard as a non-hy­brid truck.

It ba­si­cally feels like the en­gine is far larger than it is with lots of low down torque.

Each time the ve­hi­cle slows, en­ergy is col­lected us­ing re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing and is stored by the nickel metal hy­dride bat­tery. The diesel en­gine runs a par­tic­u­late fil­ter which is purged ev­ery now and again by be­ing torched at su­per high tem­per­a­tures. The sys­tem can do this on the run at high­way speeds, but if you don’t do much high­way work the sys­tem will even­tu­ally force you to do man­ual purge which takes 15 min­utes of run­ning at idle.

TNT says this can of­ten be de­layed un­til lunchtime so it doesn’t cost the driver any ad­di­tional time, but it does use fuel dur­ing the process.

The spe­cial Hino has a stop/ start fea­ture which shuts off the en­gine at idle and fires it up again when the driver de­presses the clutch.

The air­con­di­tion­ing sys­tem and r a d i o a l l work e v e n though the en­gine is not run­ning, draw­ing en­ergy from the bat­tery in­stead.

Some of the driv­ers are tak­ing a while to get used to this and over-ride the func­tion so the en­gine con­tin­ues to idle.

TNT is plan­ning more train­ing to con­vince them the stop/ start fea­ture is a good thing.

TNT now has 20 hy­brid Hi­nos on its fleet and the com­pany says it is has seen a very real fuel re­duc­tion.

‘‘It de­pends on the driver and the type of run they are do­ing, but we are see­ing an av­er­age of 15-20 per cent fuel sav­ing,’’ says re­gional fleet man­ager of TNT Ex­press, Mark Wit­te­man.

Back on the road, An­drew says the hy­brid’s per­for­mance is as good as a reg­u­lar truck.

‘‘You cer­tainly don’t lose any­thing on the ac­count of it be­ing a hy­brid,’’ he says.

He loves the in­te­rior, the com­pli­ant sus­pen­sion, the quiet cabin and the crisp man­ual. ‘‘This is like driv­ing a States­man around,’’ he says.

His favourite fea­ture is a small screen on the dash­board that gives him a good view when park­ing. ‘‘The rear-view cam­era is awe­some’’, he says.

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