The Hino 300 Series range is the company’s first new light truck design in 10 years. Gary Worrall was at the launch.
Unlike the car industry, where all-new models are rolled out every three or four years, truck manufacturers tend to go a bit longer between new models, with lower sales volumes meaning it takes longer to cover costs.
So, when Hino Trucks says it is launching its first all-new light truck design in 10 years, including the change from the Dutro to the 300 Series back in 2007, prepare for something completely different.
While Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami in March played havoc with production schedules, the factories remained intact, but important infrastructure like power and ancillary component suppliers were devastated.
The resulting supply shortages and lost time, with factories closed Thursdays and Fridays to conserve power, saw stock levels depleted not just in Australia but on a global scale.
HINO’S NEW LIGHT TRUCK
Alex Stewart, Hino’s divisional manager for product strategy, marketing and dealer development, says the new 300 series is available as either a ‘standard’ or ‘wide’ cab, with the wide cab completely redesigned, including an all-new cab structure, while the standard version is heavily revised over its predecessor.
While the 300 Series is significantly changed compared to its forebears, Stewart says it is the addition of Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) that is the single biggest improvement fitted to the new model.
Although it cannot prevent every type of crash, Stewart says it can stop many small accidents, and reduce the severity of otherwise major crashes.
In brief, he says multiple sensors fitted to the truck constantly measure data including road speed, steering angle, engine speed, throttle position and brake application, which then react to prevent or reduce accidents. For a full explanation of the new system, visit the Workshop section of this magazine.
With Hino now offering a full range of three-pedal manual, two-pedal automated manual (AMT) and full automatic transmissions, all manual versions are offered with Easy Start.
This system continues to apply the brakes after the driver releases the brake pedal, giving time for the clutch to be engaged without placing undue stress on the driveline because of a sudden application of power.
Although designed for situations where the truck is driving up a hill, it also works on downhill slopes and if the driver is reversing on a hill with the same result.
Visually, he says Hino is now using the grille to create a family look across the trucks, incorporating a stretched ‘H’, which will also be incorporated in both the 500 and 700 Series models.
IMPROVED TRUCK SAFETY
Aside from the leap to include VSC, the 300 Series is now much safer than its predecessors, says Daniel Petrovski, Hino’s product planning manager, with a range of improvements.
Although Hino has offered ABS braking on the 300 Series previously, the new version has all-wheel disc brakes on all trucks, along with Brake Assist and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD).
Brake Assist detects emergency braking applications and applies an extra level of pedal pressure, increasing the stopping effort.
The system also works in times of brake booster failure but while it cannot replace the booster, it does supply extra braking force in addition to the driver’s pedal pressure.
High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, including the mandatory washers and auto-levelling systems, are offered as standard on the Hybrid models, but can be ordered as an option on diesel models.
The lights, which first appeared in high-priced European and Japanese luxury cars, offer an improved light beam, with more light and longer range compared to halogen lights.
With all cabs meeting or exceeding ECE R29 crash test specifications, the doors are fitted with reinforcing beams to protect against side collisions, while the roof is also reinforced to protect in rollovers or crush-type accidents.
Inside, the driver and left-side passenger have 3-point ELR (Emergency Locking Retractor) seatbelts and pre-tensioners, to work in conjunction with the steering wheel and dash-mounted front airbags.
The revised dash, which offers more room, particularly for passengers, also assists in frontal impacts by reducing potential crush injuries.
By starting with an all-new design, Stewart says the wide cab benefits from numerous upgrades over the previous version, so that it is now safer and more comfortable.
Externally, the wide cab is fitted with a Front Underrun Protection System (FUPS), which Stewart says is the first offered on a light duty truck, reducing the chance of vehicles going under the truck in an accident.
The most noticeable change is the move to a slim A-Pillar design, which not only helps the cabs pass ECE R 29 crash worthiness standards but reduces the visual interference for the driver, especially at intersections.
Petrovski says that, despite the strengthened pillars and increased roof reinforcement, there is only a slight overall tare weight gain as lightweight materials are used elsewhere to compensate.
Aerodynamic efficiency is also addressed, with gradual curving of the front corners, while the windscreen rake and curved roofline also reduce wind resistance.
Another innovation involves a larger driver model for the seating, in keeping with the plan to sell the 300 Series as a global model, which required a wider range of body shapes be accommodated.
“It is a global cab, so we needed to fit more body sizes, we can now accommodate anything from 147cm to 188cm in the cab,” Stewart says.
As well as re-profiling the cab entry, making it taller and wider for easier entry and exit, Stewart says the bottom step is lower than any other Japanese light truck.
Inside, the seat base slides on an incline, moving taller drivers up and away from the pedals, while shorter drivers move forward and down, providing a relaxed seating position to reduce physical strain, he adds.
The driver’s seat is now a suspension unit, using a combination of torsion bar and magnets to provide weight adjustability and also damping force.
The steering wheel offers tilt and telescopic adjustment, adding to the ‘one size fits all’ approach of designers, while the pedals are all mounted under the dash, rather than on the floor.
Crew cab versions are similarly enlarged, including a 70 degree door opening, while the rear seat backrest now reclines at an 18 degree angle, offering more occupant comfort.
Storage is also improved, with a revised dash offering four DIN slots, drink holders, convenience hooks and a lower glove box on the passenger side, in addition to a higher mounted unit.
While the underlying cab architecture remains from previously, the internal layout is heavily revised to create more space, with the dash re-profiled to move it away from the knee and shin area, especially for passengers.
Despite this, storage space is improved in the new model, with an additional single DIN slot, car-style rotatable air vent outlets and bottle and cup holders for all front row occupants.
Crew cab versions also receive a rear cooler, complete with vents and controls, to increase comfort levels for passengers.
Heavily revised instrumentation is offered in both cab sizes, while there are differences in layout between standard and wide cab versions, the key points are large, easy to use buttons and dials that allow operation by braille.
There are also plenty of blank switches for application-specific fit out, while the big news is the standard fitment of a multimedia unit in place of the previous radio/CD unit.
Incorporating a 150mm (6 inch) colour touch screen, as well as the usual AM/FM/CD/MP3 or iPod and auxiliary inputs, the Hino unit includes a satellite navigation unit with optional NAVTEQ truck-based maps, with truck specifications for accurate route plotting.
The GPS is a $700 option, which includes additional hardware such as the antenna, plus a three-year subscription to map updates as they are released.
In an Australian first, the multi-media unit also includes a digital radio receiver as standard, making it the first commercial vehicle to be factory fitted with this technology, with the other vehicles all high-end luxury and sports cars.
The in-dash unit also offers Bluetooth connectivity for telephones as standard, while up to three reversing and blind spot cameras can be ordered to provide virtually complete visibility around the truck.
The cameras also offer an infrared mode to detect heat signatures, so that when operating in dark or foggy conditions where people or animals can walk into the path of a reversing truck, the driver has a better chance of stopping before running into them.
For the truck launch, Hino had fitted one camera for reversing, while the other two were fitted at the rear of the cab to provide blindspot warnings for the driver.
The reversing camera automatically cuts in when the driver selects reverse gear, however any or all of the cameras can be displayed on the screen during normal driving, with the rearmost camera good at confirming the presence of tailgaters.
The Hino system also includes microphones on the cameras, allowing a one-way conversation between an external guide and the camera, which could be particularly useful in low light conditions where guideposts may be obscured.
EURO 5 COMPLIANT
While the cab design upgrades and safety and comfort improvements are impressive, Stewart says they are only part of the overall picture, with the new 300 Series now fully Euro 5 compliant, including a significant upgrade of the Hybrid model.
The trucks also meet the standard for EEV (Enhanced Environmentally Friendly Vehicle), using a combination of EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) and DPR (diesel particulate reduction).
Hino uses a single-engine type in the new range, offering two different power levels, depending on the application, as well as the Hybrid which adds an electric generator and motor to the diesel driveline.
All Standard Cab models, plus automatic transmission variants and the Hybrid, are offered with the 110kW and 420Nm version, while Wide Cab models with manual or AMT have 121kW and 464Nm.
The hybrid version adds a 300v electric motor and a 93kW inverter, with power stored in a 288v nickel-metal hydride battery, providing an extra 36kW and 333Nm to the drivetrain.
The battery system is drawn from the Lexus RX450h luxury SUV, with the total weight of the system being 193kg, including the inverter, converter, power control unit (PCU) and cooling system.
The other significant change over the previous Hybrid range is the clutch location; it now sits between the diesel and electric engines, allowing the diesel to idle while the electric motor drives the truck, particularly in stop-start traffic.
Previously the clutch was positioned between the electric motor and the transmission, so that both engines were always under load, regardless of the level of charge in the storage battery.
The new layout allows for the PCU to infinitely ‘torque split’ power demands between the two motors, Stewart says, with the accelerator pedal becoming a potentiometer that tells the PCU what power is needed.
“If the driver requests, say, 280Nm of torque, the electronic control units for the engine and hybrid system network provide the ideal split of diesel and electric power.”
Steve Lotter, Chief Operating Officer of Hino Australia, says the company has a goal of returning to more than 20 percent share of the Australian market “within 12 months” and the new 300 Series will play a big part.
Lotter says the overall goal for Hino is to capture 25 percent of the market, which will see the company focus more closely on fleet business, including the lucrative rental truck market, particularly with the new automatic transmission.
With eight Hybrid models now available in the light duty range, Lotter says Hino is also focusing on making this a bigger slice of the overall sales, with the price differential for the Hybrid reduced to $9,000, compared with $12,000 previously.
Despite redesigning the Wide Cab and achieving ECE R29 certification for the entire 300 Series, Lotter says Hino is not lobbying through the Truck Industry Council to make the crash standard mandatory.
“We believe corporate Australia’s push for greater safety will see companies choosing to buy safety systems in their vehicles,” Lotter says.
With only a short drive around Brisbane, which offered an insight into the capabilities of the new trucks, it is clear the revised models are better than what they replace.
The question that Hino faces though is not whether new is better than old, but whether the new Hino is perceived as better than the new Isuzu, Fuso and Hyundai, and if they’re sufficiently better than the impending flood of Chinese trucks to justify the higher price tag.
And with Hino engaging in a joint venture with Chinese manufacturers for heavy vehicles, Hino’s motor sales Australia president Ken Sekine acknowledges there is a risk of Hino technology being “reverse engineered” to appear in other models, although he says it is a worry “in the long-term”.
Look to ATN for the usual comprehensive road tests of the new Hino 300 Series.
Visit Hino Australia for more information.