While out on the test track we were also able to get to grips with Mitsubishi Fuso’s Canter Eco-Hybrid 7.5-tonner, fitted with both a diesel engine and an electric motor. A total of ten examples are on a three-year trial in London with prominent fleet operators including DHL, Tesco and TNT. Canter is distributed through Mercedes-Benz dealerships.
Eco-Hybrid offers a fuel usage cut of up to 15 per cent plus lower CO2 emissions as a consequence. When you move away from rest only the electric motor is in operation. The 3.0-litre diesel — smaller than the ones usually found in a 7.5-tonner — kicks in rapidly, however, if you accelerate hard or the truck is heavily laden. Thereafter the motor and the engine work in harmony until the driver reaches cruising speed, when it’s diesel power only. Slow down and the motor helps to brake the vehicle.
What’s more, the motor/generator captures some of the braking energy and turns it into electricity which is stored in the lithium-ion battery pack, which has a projected life-span of nine years. The lightness of Canter’s chassis means that a more-than-respectable payload capacity remains available; the weight penalty imposed by all this technology is a modest 200kg.
Fitted with a semi-automatic gearbox, Eco-Hybrid proved to be a remarkably easy vehicle to drive, with a light touch on the accelerator pedal necessary if you are to realise its environmental benefits to the full. However, it has one big drawback; a likely price premium of 30 to 40 per cent over the standard model if it is made available commercially. Mitsubishi Fuso nonetheless reckons that it could sell perhaps 200 Eco-Hybrids annually in Britain.