BTS 2023

The road to going full electric

Anyone who attended the Brisbane Truck Show (BTS) would have been astounded at the number of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) on display. But Hino Australia deviated from the trend, with what it believes is the perfect transition truck.

From a mere three BEVs on display in 2021, this year there were over 20 trucks of all sizes powered by electricity. If there was ever a sign that the industry is headed in this direction, surely this was it.

Many manufacturers are aiming for half their global product to be battery electric or fuel cell electric by 2030 – a mere seven years away.

By 2040 companies such as Volvo are aiming at all trucks sold will be net zero emissions. These are lofty ambitions and for the sake of the health of the world and our children, most of us would hope that these goals are achievable.

Hydrogen, which this country will need for long distance travel (barring perhaps Janus Electric) and which powers fuel cells – in turn powering electric motors – is still some time away. Other hydrogen motive power based on the internal combustion engine (ICE), such as Cummins X 15 with its interchangeable cylinder heads, are closer it would seem.

Hino Australia’s vice president, Richard Emery (pictured left) is sitting back and taking in the transition with interest. Hino Australia did not present a BEV electric on its stand at BTS, instead showing what Emery believes to be the perfect transition truck on the way to full electric.

Emery is well qualified to talk about BEV as he used to be CEO and chairman of Nissan Australia.

“There is an interesting dynamic on display at the moment in Australia and I think I may be in a unique position to talk about this,” Emery said.

“As you know Nissan had the Leaf electric vehicle on sale in Australia in around 2007. In fact our factory in Dandenong was the only factory in the Nissan world that built key componentry for the Leaf.

“Do you think I could get government to engage about the things that we needed to do to decarbonise, not only the factory side of the business, but the automotive side.

“The Coalition government in power at the time weren’t even interested in having a conversation. We got no government support for running the factory that built Leaf componentry and really couldn’t get any engagement with them about how to encourage low and zero emission uptake.

“Now we have gone from that situation to the exact opposite where I believe that the current government’s approach is very tunnel visioned – that it is all one thing. And that’s battery electric, to the exclusion of other technologies. The reality is somewhere in between. It will move and adjust for individual (truck) customers over the next five years.

The prediction is that the transport industry, in terms of the tonnage moved per annum here in Australia, is going to increase by 40 per cent between now and 2030, Emery said.

“The reality is if that is that the transport industry will in fact increase its carbon footprint over the next five or six years. So clearly something needs to be done.

“The average age of the Australian commercial vehicle fleet is approaching 13 years. If we made that 10 years it would make an immense difference to the amount of emissions emitted by our industry”

Emery believes Hino has the perfect transition vehicle into moving toward all electric in their 300 Series Hybrid-Electric powered vehicle.

“I believe that a truly sustainable change to full electric lies in the electric-hybrid. Hino has, it would seem, the country’s best kept secret (until now) in our 300 Series Electric–Hybrid. As a subsidiary of Toyota we had access to their technology and expertise in this area which has spanned some 40 years, and is well proven.

“The Hino Electric Hybrid has in fact been available on the market since 2007. When I first joined the company I asked why we didn’t sell more of them and couldn’t get a straight answer.

“Soon after, in the middle of last year a few things happened. Of course fuel prices went through the roof and also our Toyota Financial Services business partner had done some homework showing that residual value of these trucks was holding up far better than anticipated and that maintenance costs from a fleet management perspective were less.

“I think it’s been to our detriment that some of our customers think it’s a new truck when it’s been there all the time. They just didn’t know.”

The hybrid can offer a saving on fuel of anywhere between 15-30 per cent.

Compared to the straight diesel version, Emery said the hybrid can offer a saving on fuel of anywhere between 15-30 per cent, depending on how you drive it, of course.

On the open road the difference between hybrid and diesel isn’t great but in urban areas where carbon emissions from trucks are highest, it comes into its own, he said.

“You’re not only saving a heap in diesel costs but also doing your bit to reduce carbon emissions. This is very important to many companies in our industry who wish to be seen as good corporate citizens.

“The base 300 Series truck is bloody good. When you add Hybrid-Electric on top, it becomes quite a compelling argument. A year ago, if we’d sat down with a customer who was going to buy 50 300 Series and asked him if he’d like to make 10 of those hybrids, they would have said no. There was a bit of a view that they would just jump straight to full electric.

“Now they are realising they can’t do that because they don’t have the capacity, the infrastructure and the cost impediments are pretty big. But they see the value that hybrid-electric offers as a stopgap.

“So, in the next five years what I believe will happen is that let’s say a business has a 100 300 Series-sized trucks. They might transition to 10 per cent all electric, 25 per cent hybrid electric with the remaining being diesel. Then over the next 5 to 10 years those figures will change to something like 30 per cent electric, 40 per cent hybrid electric and it will shift depending on the fleet that you use.”

This ‘relaunch’ of the Hino 300 Series Hybrid-Electric has resulted in a five-fold increase in orders for the truck.

In Japan, Hino also has a hybrid-electric version of their Big Banger 700 Series. Emery’s next mission is to try and get that truck to Australia.

“I do love to have the 700 Hybrid-Electric here. I reckon it would be fantastic for say, container movements on and off walls and around metro areas. Can you imagine the savings that could offer to an operator?”

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