The Tokyo Motor Show was the venue for introduction of a pair of hybrid-drive systems and a full-electric vehicle by Mitsubishi Fuso Truck & Bus Corp.

While there are no plans to sell the trucks in the U.S., the systems or some of their components might someday appear in Freightliner and Western Star vehicles from Daimler Trucks North America, Mitsubishi Fuso's sister company in the states.
The Canter cab and body are lifted to reveal components of Fuso's new light/medium-duty Eco diesel-electric parallel hybrid at Tokyo Motor Show. The system might be employed later in Freightliner M2 trucks. (Photo by Sven-Erik Lindstrand)
The Canter cab and body are lifted to reveal components of Fuso's new light/medium-duty Eco diesel-electric parallel hybrid at Tokyo Motor Show. The system might be employed later in Freightliner M2 trucks. (Photo by Sven-Erik Lindstrand)

Daimler Trucks of Germany owns 89% of the Japanese company and all of DTNA, as well as Mitsubishi Fuso Trucks of America, the importer of Fuso light-medium low-cab-forward models. Coordination among all the companies is now the rule for a "power to the future" campaign whose products will roll out in coming years, said Albert Kirchmann, president and CEO of the Japanese firm.

The Canter E-Cell electric vehicle, he said, "is almost silent, but someday we expect this to make a lot of noise" in the commercial truck world. E-Cell will go on sale in Japan next spring, and be exported to other countries later. It has a range of 120 kilometers (75 miles), and is meant for urban service where the electric truck returns to a home base each night for recharging.

Eco Hybrids

The hybrids are called Eco for their potential to reduce exhaust emissions by 30% and cut fuel use by the same amount. They are parallel diesel-electric types, meaning the truck is propelled by the electric drive, the engine, or both.

The light/medium-duty version, shown in a Class 4 Canter LCF, is an upgraded version of one sold since 2006 in Japan. Among changes is the use of Fuso's Duonic dual-clutch automated mechanical transmission in place of a torque-converter automatic.

The system uses a small-displacement 4B10 diesel, a 70-killowatt (94-horsepower) motor-generator, and a 40-killowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, plus precise electronic controls and software, Kirchmann said.

The heavy-duty version, shown in Fuso's Class 8 truck, called the Super Great, has higher outputs. But the numbers are confidential, said executives at Fuso's Kitsuregawa Proving Ground about 90 miles north of Tokyo.

Super Great Class 8 truck has Fuso's heavy-duty hybrid system that might later be used, in whole or part, in heavy Freightliners.

Hybrids and long-haul

Unlike some competitors, Fuso engineers believe long-haul operations hold great potential to save fuel and cut emissions. A hybrid truck running on an up-and-down highway profile can use the boost from an electric motor uphill and can replenish the electric charge in its batteries while drifting downhill, they said. Interstate highways in the U.S. cross over countless secondary roads in such a fashion.

Furthermore, while it's understood that a lighter truck engaged in urban stop-and-go operations is an ideal application for a hybrid, a 2% fuel savings by a heavy hybrid truck will cut as much carbon dioxide as a medium or light truck with its smaller engine as it saves 20% in fuel.

Company officials allowed trade press reporters to drive a pair of Canter hybrids at the proving ground, but they were the earlier version. A Super Great heavy-duty hybrid was available for rides but not drives; a project engineer chauffeured reporters around a high-speed track. Both systems, even the '06 Canter Eco hybrid, operated smoothly and quietly.

Daimler has designated Fuso to develop all hybrid-drive systems to be eventually used by all of its truck manufacturers in Japan, Europe and North America, and this is being done at the proving ground.

In America?

The Class 4 "light-duty" (as Fuso calls this weight category) hybrid or some of its components might be employed in Freightliner Business Class M2 medium-trucks, engineers said. It might complement rather than replace the more powerful Eaton electric-drive hybrid system offered since 2006 in Class 6-7 M2s.

The Eco heavy-duty hybrid system might appear in Class 8 Freightliners, but there are no plans now for such use. As with the lighter-duty system, components rather than a complete system might be used in North American Freightliners and perhaps Western Stars.

The Canter Eco hybrid might be sent to the U.S. if a business case can be made for its purchase and the engine is certified by federal and California authorities, said Todd Bloom, president and CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso-America in Logan Township, N.J.

"Just because you use the same engine in the hybrid as you use in current trucks, that doesn't mean they will accept it for the hybrid," he said of clean air authorities, and it's expensive to certify engines. Helping will be good relations that Fuso in the U.S. already has with California's Air Resources Board.

The cost of buying a hybrid system can add 50% to the price of a diesel truck, other U.S. manufacturers have said. Fuso officials would not provide acquisition costs for its hybrids, but said the goal is to achieve a payback for customers in three to five years, and without government grants that have been offered in the past.

The Eco hybrids "will provide low emissions for society and a low cost of ownership for the customer," Kirchmann said.