TOKYO – Move over Prius. The next U.S.-bound hybrid from the Toyota Group will be big. Really big. As in a hulking 7- to 9-ton diesel-electric cab over engine commercial truck.
The vehicle, manufactured by Hino Motors Ltd., Toyota's truckmaking unit, goes on sale in the United States in December and aims to cash in on the group's reputation for hybrid expertise.
The introduction of diesel and hybrid versions of the truck, known as the Dutro in Japan, marks Hino's return to the U.S. light-duty truck market after seven years.
Hino re-engineered the Dutro line so that the hybrid version gets 50 percent better fuel economy than the previous generation's diesel-only variant, the company says.
In the United States, the 14,500-pound hybrid will be sold as the 155h, while the 19,500-pounder will be called the 195h. Regular diesel versions of both arrive in August.
Expanding in the United States is part of Hino's goal to quadruple global light-duty truck sales to 140,000 units a year by 2015. Hino declined to give U.S. sales projections for the upcoming trucks or say what percent of sales will be hybrids. But in Japan, where the new Dutro goes on sale July 2, hybrids are expected to account for 30 percent of sales.
Hino engineers say they have developed the hybrid drivetrain independently of their colleagues at Toyota, who made the Prius the world's best-selling gasoline-electric car.
But the truck's six-speed automatic transmission is made by Toyota Group supplier Aisin Seiki. And the nickel-metal hydride battery is the same as the one used in the Lexus LS hybrid.
The power packs are made by Toyota's battery making subsidiary, Primearth EV Energy Co., which makes batteries for Toyota and Lexus hybrids, including the Prius.
Hino has high hopes for hybrid trucks. They are particularly effective as vehicles that do a lot of stop-and-go traveling, making them suitable for buses and delivery work in cities, Hino says.