Hybrid with view of the future
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.