CLIMATE CONTROL | Truck Review -Japanese truck maker Hino shows it’s well ahead of the pack when it comes to climate change

Japanese truck maker Hino shows it’s well ahead of the pack when it comes to climate change – Words by Warren Caves

The Australian media launch of the all-new 500 Series standard cab in Tokyo recently provided Hino Motors Limited (HML) with the opportunity to reveal the company’s bold plans to tackle global warming by reducing emissions across its businesses.

Plans are already well under way, with a strong focus on the commercialisation of Electric Vehicles (EV), Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHV) and Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV) to conform to the Japanese government calling for CO2 reductions of 26 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050.

HML has actively taken on the 2050 challenge, announcing it will work towards these goals by continuing to evolve existing technologies,  as well as the development of next-generation products including lower emission diesel, diesel hybrids, PHV, EV and FCV equipment.

The Hino 300 Series Hybrid, released locally in 2007, is the best-selling diesel-electric commercial vehicle in Australia, with eight variants and almost 600 vehicles so far in operation.

The recent release of the 500 Series standard cab range and its all-new AO5 series of engines, boasting improved combustion rates, friction and thermal efficiency gains, place it as the cleanest Japanese-built medium duty truck in Australia, utilising SCR, EGR and DPR exhaust after-treatment technology, complying to the equivalent of Euro 6.

Hino’s commitment to the environment at a local and global level goes far beyond that, with 95 percent (by vehicle weight) of the latest 500 Series standard cab being made from materials that can be recycled.

Scheduled for its Japan release in 2019 is the sixth generation of Hino Hybrid technology trucks centred around the heavy-duty Profia truck range, utilising Lithium Titanate battery technology.

HML’s approach to achieving these targets is focused on upgrading existing technologies in tandem with an aggressive development of next-generation vehicles. The aim is to produce a technological road-map for achieving CO2 reduction targets.  This includes proliferating commercialisation of next-gen vehicles and forming alliances to enable efficient development, which includes co-operation with one of Hino’s main competitors, Isuzu.

Hino’s autonomous journey continues, with platooning technology forming part of its overall efficiency strategy, by way of moving more goods with fuel economy gains. Collaboration with other manufacturers could see platooning trucks of the future entering and leaving a platoon with seamless mixed brand communication.

Australian customers should see the benefits of these technological advances in reasonably quick timeframes from their Japanese releases, by way of Hino’s commitment to overseas markets. Hino exports have consistently outperformed domestic sales since 2007, with Australian Hino truck sales topping 6000 units in 2017, placing us 7th in overall world sales rankings.

While vehicle technological advances form a strong component of the 2050 challenge, what about the manufacturing process itself?

HML has already begun to address this component of the manufacturing chain. After identifying inefficiencies with its main manufacturing plant, Hino’s Koga manufacturing facility commenced construction in 2011, with Knock Down (KD) kits being produced from May 2012 for packaged export to other countries for final assembly, and commencement of complete medium and heavy-duty truck assembly in July 2016.

Talking about future development is all well and good, but seeing it at work first-hand really underlines the commitment involved. Power Torque was invited to tour the Koga facility and personally view the latest environmental and workplace efficiencies.

Constructed to meet the increasing global demand for Hino products, the Koga plant employs in excess of 2000 people to meet its 45,000 unit-per-annum capacity. The 850,000 square metre site includes 130,000 square metres under roof.

Previous production line techniques saw Hino vehicles travel down three production lines, side by side, to accommodate differing vehicle specifications and models.  Hino identified inefficiencies with this method and implemented a modular system within the Koga facility where a single line production process with varying models and specifications move along the same production line. This is made possible by the use of automated parts delivery dollies being driven alongside the relevant model, with the parts bins housing the components directly related to the corresponding truck assembly.

The modular process sees sub-assemblies of components being assembled in areas to the sides of the production line and then moved to a holding area awaiting allocation to the corresponding vehicle on the line. The whole process is so finely tuned that our Hino engineer guide told us that the on-hand stock holding capacity of components at Koga is enough for a mere two hours of production.

The Koga facility rolls out medium and heavy-duty trucks (including the Australian 500 Series model) at a rate of 200 trucks per day, with workers operating on two shifts to finish a truck every 4.8 minutes.

Hino’s Koga plant is a world-class production facility utilising leading-edge manufacturing technologies to shorten production lead times. This is achieved through a strong focus on robotics and automation where possible, including parts movements throughout the facility and welding by robots, which provides greater manufacturing accuracy. The cold tandem welding process carried out by the robots is said to reduce heat distortion, and the new welding jig set-up enables easy transition to accommodate varied and new model production.

In line with Hino’s environmental objectives to reduce emissions and counteract global warming, the latest design and construction techniques have been implemented in the construction and day-to-day energy and resource needs of the plant.

A dry paint booth was introduced into the Koga plant. The system is capable of providing more than 3000 colours, while utilising paint mist technology that requires no water and recycling of waste heat. This yields a claimed CO2 reduction of 25 percent.

Natural and LED lighting is used widely throughout the plant. A stratified air conditioning system limits the air-conditioned space to two metres above floor level, along with subterranean heat collection using geo-thermal heat for energy savings. Rainwater collection and reclaimed water for toilets reduce the strain on natural resources, which, in a country of 126 million people, can be significant.

The environmental and design features at Koga are said to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the plant by 25 percent and reduce water consumption by 65 percent when compared to the previous conventional Hino manufacturing plant.

According to the Green Truck partnership case study (A NSW State government collaboration with industry), a comparison between a light duty diesel commercial vehicle and its hybrid counterpart found that the hybrid version delivered a 21 percent fuel efficiency benefit relative to the conventional diesel variant.

Daniel Petrovski, Hino Australia’s manager of product strategy, said: “The amount of greenhouse gas created by burning fossil fuels is directly impacted by the amount of fuel burned. Therefore, a 21 percent fuel saving results in a direct 21 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions”.

Hino’s strong focus on export markets should continue to see Australian truck buyers gaining access to the latest environmentally friendly, technology laden and fuel-efficient vehicles in co-operation with Hino Motor Sales Australia (HMSL).

HML seems dedicated to accepting its responsibility for the impact on the environment of its vehicles and their production by taking a proactive approach to reducing harmful emissions wherever possible. This is highlighted by the new Koga facility.

The real winners – apart from the environment in general – are transport operators who are set to reap the benefits of lower operating costs to their businesses.

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