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Hino Hybrid a ‘real world’ green solution

We run the numbers on Hino’s 300 hybrid in back-to-back test with the diesel version

16 May 2023

HYBRID technology might seem like a fleeting option as the world hurtles toward a battery electric future, but for truck-maker Hino it is a long-term solution it has been refining since 2007, offering a compelling car-licence alternative to dual-cab utes for tradies and fleet operators.


Using proven Toyota Group technology for its parallel hybrid system, the Hino 300 Series Hybrid is claimed to deliver fuel consumption and emissions reductions of up to 20 per cent – which GoAuto recently put to the test in Sydney – as well as reduced maintenance costs.


Unlike many hybrid passenger cars that downsize engine capacity, Hino kept the full-size diesel engine for its working truck models to help ensure a long working life and under-stressed powertrain. 


An electric motor is sandwiched between the clutch and gearbox, working in parallel with the diesel engine to offer assistance that leads to improved efficiency and reduced carbon dioxide emissions.


The N04C four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, combined with the electric motor, produces 111kW and 470Nm with maximum torque developed from as low as 1200rpm.


All hybrid Hino models are coupled to a six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) that is slower swapping cogs than a traditional automatic, but familiar to truck drivers. If added operator control is required, the AMT can be manually overridden.


How does this translate into reduced running costs? After our back-to-back test drive of diesel and hybrid Hino 300 trucks, the team at Hino HQ was forthcoming in sharing the drive data from the on-board telematics and our expectations were exceeded.


In an age of inflated fuel-use claims and exaggerated range numbers, Hino has clearly erred on the side of caution.


Across 142km of driving (loaded), during which the diesel 300 trailed the Hybrid 300, we returned a fuel use figure of 11.1 litres per 100km. By comparison, the diesel model used 13.6L/100km. 


This equates to a 21.2 per cent fuel efficiency improvement across the day, exceeding Hino’s official claim of 20 per cent. A typical driver would travel twice as far as we did in a day, so the savings would be significant across, say, a year. 


Hino Australia product strategy manager, Daniel Petrovski told GoAuto that 300 hybrid customers can “reduce yearly maintenance costs by up to 16 per cent” compared with the diesel equivalent.


Using the electric motor as a starter motor and alternator all-in-one contributes to these savings because these ancillaries do eventually fail on traditional trucks, and the regenerative braking goes a long way to preserving brake pads.


Based on our efficiency saving across the day, when factoring in an average of 45,000km driven each year and an average diesel cost of $2 per litre, the hybrid offers a $2147 fuel bill saving, while also emitting 2877kg less CO2 than its diesel-only sibling.


The monthly fuel cost saving alone is $179, which coupled with Hino’s claimed lower maintenance costs and the reduced CO2 emissions, the hybrid 300 could be a compelling option for those considering a greener truck.


However, at a list price of $74,209 for the hybrid 300 we drove and $57,574 for the equivalent diesel model (both before on-road costs), the electrified option comes at a premium of $16,635.


This does not appear to be dissuading customers, though. Around 700 Hino hybrids are on Australian roads at present but Mr Petrovski told GoAuto that the company already has 300 orders so far this year compared to an average of 50 in previous years.


“By the end of the year, there will be over 1000 on the road and that will get to 1500 pretty quickly,” he said.


As fuel prices continue to climb, the light truck end of town is becoming more aware of the dollars they throw at diesel. 


While battery electric vehicles (BEV) are likely to be the future of light- and medium-duty commercial vehicles, Hino says the hybrid 300 is the best bridging solution for “right now” without any of the driving range limitations present with BEVs.


The latest generation 300 also scores Hino’s full suite of SmartSafe safety technology with pre-collision system, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, and more. 


Earlier this year, Hino bolstered the 300 Series range with ‘Built to Go’ models, essentially offering a pre-built range of genuine body types including various factory-backed tipper and tray body options. 


The Hybrid 300 TradeAce wide-cab model we drove was fitted with a genuine Hino aluminium tray, ladder racks and a bullbar, optioned with a 4495kg GVM allowing it to be driven with a car licence. The sticker price on one of these is $74,209 before on-road costs, or similar to a high-end dual-cab 4x4 ute.


Depending on application, the Hybrid Hybrid 300 Series range can be optioned with up to an 8500kg GVM, but the 4495kg GVM model we tested still offers a healthy 1945kg payload – eclipsing that of popular 4x4 dual-cab utes. 


“The introduction of the new alloy tray and TradeAce Built to Go models to our Hybrid Electric range offers customers a high quality, cost effective and versatile drive-away solution that can reduce business operating costs from day one,” said Mr Petrovski.


So how does the hybrid drive compared to its diesel 300 Series stablemate?


Driving impressions


We spent quite a lot of time in the outgoing Hybrid 300 Series in 2019, which impressed us with its frugal fuel use and simple operation.


In 2020, Hino introduced the new model with a range of functional upgrades like a six-speed AMT, revised hybrid system operation and more safety tech. Let’s see how it compares.


Leaving Hino’s head office in Caringbah with exactly one tonne of sand in the tray, we navigated heavy traffic before reaching the motorway and bound for the Eastern Suburbs to test the Hybrid on a drive route indicative of typical trade use. 


The six-speed transmission offers a lower first gear and taller sixth compared with the old model’s five-speed unit, which improves performance from a standstill as well as at highway speeds.


During stop-start driving the truck will also now accelerate, under light throttle, off the mark using electric power only. Once required, the clutch couples the diesel motor to the driveline and it awakens from idle.


We experimented with how far we could get on electric-only power, reaching 20-30km/h before the diesel came into play. The transition was pretty seamless but noticeable in how quiet it is off the line. 


This is a new feature, which in urban stop-start driving offers an efficient take-off that contributes to the improved fuel economy. The stop-start engine shutoff helps too, and the electric motor both doubles as a starter motor and replaces the alternator.


What remains the same across model generations we’ve tested, is that during normal driving the engine really lugs; operating at such low revolutions it feels like it’s about to stall. That’s normal, though, because the electric motor is busy helping the diesel engine propel the Hybrid 300.


Another fuel-saving feature that feels a little unusual at first, is the coast function that disengages the clutch when coasting – effectively dropping into ‘angel gear’ – instantly reengaging when power is required. 


The little 300 feels better on the highway than it ever has, probably due to the taller sixth gear and coast function, with a quiet and comfortable cabin.


It really shines in urban environments though, where it lugs around sipping less diesel but without a noticeable compromise – in fact the torque spread is even better than a diesel-only 300 Series. 


Once you’ve got your head around the differences in driving behaviour, with things like the coast function, low operating RPM, and electric-only take-off, it’s an enjoyable truck to be in.


We didn’t manually shift the AMT at any point across the day, even when climbing the hills out around Vaucluse or accelerating onto the motorway uphill. It’s a well sorted driveline that does what it says on the box. 

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