Mitsubishi Goes For Hybrid Heavy Lifting

Heavy duty trucks are (in their own special way) beautiful machines that don’t nearly get enough credit for the work they are called to do. These great, hulking beasts are used as the platform for countless applications – dump trucks, cement mixers, garbage trucks – and without them, the heavy lifting and hauling required in modern construction just wouldn’t get done. The only problem with the heavy duty truck is its fuel-guzzling problem. But there might be hope for rehabilitation.

Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus (MFTBC), one of Asia’s leading commercial vehicle manufacturers, recently announced that it is testing a hybrid-electric version of its Super Great heavy-duty highway truck. Even better news for gigantic truck lovers: Early results indicate significant fuel efficiency improvements over conventional diesel-only vehicles.

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image via Mitsubishi

MFTBC’s system is based on technology used in the Canter Eco Hybrid light-duty truck, which has sold more than 1,200 units and been in commercial operation since 2006. The hybrid Super Great in development features a conventional diesel engine, electric motor/generator, lithium-ion battery and related control software. These are configured in a parallel hybrid system, which means power to drive the vehicle comes from the vehicle’s electric motor, the diesel engine or both. Fuel efficiency and emissions reduction are achieved by using them in combination with each other according to driving conditions, and the vehicle also converts brake energy into electric energy and stores it in the lithium-ion battery for future use.

The company reports that in testing, the new hybrid has shown a 10 percent increase in fuel efficiency versus conventional diesel-only vehicles. Testing has been conducted mainly on expressways in Japan, which MFTBC says is representative of conditions for a long-haul or regional-haul heavy-duty truck.

“Our evaluation so far shows that hybridization can indeed benefit heavy-duty trucks in typical long-haul operations,” Gustav Tuschen, MFTBC’s vice president of product engineering, said in a statement. “The conventional thinking is that hybrids best fit light-duty truck operations in urban areas, since such operations involve many stops and starts. While small truck operations in big cities do benefit from hybrid power trains, due to their ability to frequently recapture braking energy, heavy-duty highway trucks clearly can benefit as well.

Steve Duda lives in West Seattle, WA with three dogs and a lot of outdoor gear. A part-time fly fishing fishing guide and full-time writer, Steve’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, American Angler, Fly Fish Journal, The Drake, Democracy Now! and many others.