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When most people think Toyota and hybrid, the Prius naturally comes to mind. Indeed, Japan’s largest automaker has been capitalizing on the car’s brand equity, expanding the range to include the A/V wagon and plug-in variants.
But cars aren’t the only thing on Toyota’s mind when it comes to hybrids. In fact, for it’s next major thrust into the North American market, the company is literally thinking bigger when it comes to internal combustion/electric powered vehicles, in this case, commercial trucks.
In the last two decades, Japanese light and medium-duty trucks have made sizable inroads in the North American market and now Toyota, through it’s heavy truck division Hino, is hoping that it can add hybrids to the mix.
In Japan, Hino has developed a diesel/electric version of it’s light and middle weight Dutro cab-over-engine truck. Compared to it’s diesel only predecessor, the latest Dutro is said to boast an improvement in fuel economy by around 50 percent, making it particularly attractive for fleet customers, especially those that use trucks for local delivery work in urban areas.
Introducing a variant of the Dutro hybrid to North America is part of Hino’s goal to quadruple sales in our market, to approximately 140,000 units annually by 2015.
For US consumption, the Hino hybrid will be available in either 14,500 lb or heavier-duty 19,500 lb configurations (called 155h and 195h respectively) and will feature an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission. The battery system is reportedly the same as that used in the Lexus LS hybrid and the battery packs themselves will be sourced from Primearth Electric Vehicle Energy Co., another Toyota subsidiary.
Given the current cost of fuel prices and commercial truck operators looking to save fuel any way they can (look at all the trailer fairings appearing on large over-the-road rigs to help reduce wind resistance and improve mileage), the announcement of the Hino hybrid will no doubt be good news , especially as many Japanese commercial trucks currently offered in the US are largely employed as urban delivery vehicles, where frequent stop-start driving is the norm.
However, for those that aren’t quite ready to take the plunge, Hino has said it will offer conventional diesel versions of the truck alongside the hybrid models, with deliveries slated to begin in August.
[Source: Automotive News]