Hybrids, diesel emissions technology and active safety systems were the common theme for truck manufacturers at the 38th Tokyo Motor Show last month.
Although geared for the domestic Japanese market, the displays by Hino Motors, Isuzu Motors, Mitsubishi Fuso, Nissan Diesel UD and Toyota all highlighted technologies that address common concerns here in North America — how to achieve large reductions in diesel emissions, how to shift to alternative fuels, and how to foster significant gains in truck safety.
Japan is set to move to stiff new emissions requirements in 2005 that are about half of U.S. 2004 limits on both particulate matter (PM) and NOx. For medium-duty and mid-range trucks, the truck makers displayed an approach familiar to U.S. fleets: cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), high-pressure fuel injection and diesel particulate filter (DPF) aftertreatment.
For heavy-duty applications, however, the Japanese truck makers will follow the European model, using urea injection for selective catalytic reduction (SCR). One manufacturer, Nissan Diesel UD, actually introduced an all-new heavy-duty truck, the Quon, which becomes the first Japanese production model to use SCR.
As a relatively small and condensed market, infrastructure for distribution of urea is less of a problem than it would be in the U.S., and heavy-truck operators are likely to be more professional truck-centered operations that can both accommodate urea use and appreciate the improved fuel economy from SCR, according to Dr. Joerg Zuern, sr. vp of development and procurement for Mitsubishi Fuso.
In contrast, lighter truck users might find recharging urea tanks more difficult, and since those trucks tend to operate in stop-and-go conditions where fuel economy is more driver dependent, they might not see the same level of fuel economy gains with SCR, he added.
Development of diesel/electric hybrid trucks in Japan has been accelerated by the availability of large government and industry subsidies to end users that add up to 75% of the initial increase in purchase price. Typically installed in mid-range trucks and small buses, diesel fuel economy increases with the hybrid systems are reported to reach up to 27% in certain applications.
Like both manufacturers here in North America and in Europe, the Japanese truck makers are also working on a wide range of new safety technologies. Concept vehicles at the Tokyo Motor Show carried lane monitoring and driver alertness devices, automated braking systems, stability control systems and a range of vision and visibility enhancement technologies. Among the more unusual safety systems was a Hino heavy-duty concept truck that included “a built-in shock-mitigating front structure” intended to reduce front-end collision damage to other vehicles and “pre-crash safety technology” designed to minimize rear-end collisions.