Two Pedal Future

Automotive product planning is crucial as the global road transport landscape transitions to a low and zero carbon emission future.
Daniel Petrovski.

Daniel Petrovski’s official title is Department Manager — Product Strategy at Hino Australia. Daniel’s journey may be different from a typical engineer who, after leaving school, went to university to study for a degree.

“I’m a product planning guy who left school prematurely and decided that making money was going to be more important at that time,” Daniel says.

After various forms of employment, including as a roof tiler for a year and then a tool maker in a machine shop, Daniel completed his apprenticeship as a parts interpreter at Volvo Trucks at Lansvale in Sydney.

Several years later he was given a unique opportunity to work with renowned truck engineer Ken Cowell in a cadet role at Volvo Trucks.

“I was probably the first cadet since Ken Cowell was a cadet at Volvo himself, and that opportunity has never been wasted on me,” Daniel says.

“They recognised I was a bit different, and not to be wasted in another area, so I took up the offer to take on further studies and become a product planning guy.”

Product planning or product strategy involves analysing the market and looking at what customers want and need in relation to their commercial vehicles. Information from customers is vital.

“You’ve got to talk with customers and you can’t rely on anyone else. Customers are the source. Their buying patterns and what they are purchasing are also an information feed into what you’re going to plan for them for the next five to ten years,” Daniel says.

“At the moment [mid-2024] we’re working on 2030. That sounds like it’s a long way off but it’s only six years away. Our development cycles are typically eight years from the start of R&D to delivery. We’re actually into 2032 if we look at start-up projects.”

In-field validation is important. Basic field testing takes place before engineers come out to Australia for two weeks and visit somewhere in the vicinity of 50 customers.

“We’ll get their direct feedback on what we’re planning and designing for the Australian market and whether that’s a suitable solution for them,” Daniel says. “Do they need more of something? Is it already too much?”

As a leading Japanese manufacturer, Hino is very proud of its vehicles’ durability which only comes through introducing products that are well validated.

“When vehicles are run in Japan our engineers get a good understanding of what are the pros and cons, and what are the potential shortcomings of any particular product for the export markets,” explains Daniel.

He sees the new truck global landscape changing significantly over the next decade and there will be a number of challenges in the planning and development of trucks, including such factors as the road to zero emissions and the emergence of other Asian start-up manufacturers.

Daniel Petrovski at a recent media drive day.

“The next five to ten years will see a transition to zero tailpipe emissions coming into the market, but the internal combustion engines for heavy vehicles will still be the majority of sales because the internal combustion diesel is the most efficient way to transport goods,” he says.

“Hydrogen is a great opportunity but there is still a lot of development which needs to occur.”

Daniel considers Government regulation to be a major challenge.

“It is tricky if manufacturers are not allowed enough time between the announcement of a new government mandate and through to implementation,” he says.

“I spoke about development time being eight years yet new Australian fuel efficiency standards are going to come into effect in 12 months’ time.”

The Australian government’s New Vehicle Efficiency Standard (NVES) will encompass a range of vehicles which have not been previously subject to such regulations.

“The NVES may include Light Duty ‘car licence’ trucks with 4.5 tonne GVM, which is the biggest segment of the Australian truck market,” Daniel says.

“That would have a flow-on effect because of the additional costs from that type of CO² tax that might not be able to be avoided.

“Hydrogen and electric all have a place but they are not solutions which are viable for all applications of the Light Duty segment. For example, battery electric has a place but it doesn’t currently have the ability to replace a diesel truck doing 300 kilometres a day.”

Hybrid electric drivetrains can be a practical option for many applications, and Hino also sees a future for hybrid in its heavier trucks. “We currently have a 700 Series Hybrid Electric in Japan.

The 300 Series Hybrid Electric goes up to 8 tonnes GVM, and then 4×2 and 6×2 700 Series can take over from that as a heavier capacity option,” Daniel says.

“A hybrid electric minimises fuel use, has no deficiencies in terms of its operation, and no range or recharging limitations.”

Daniel is proud of the entire Hino product range as it stands today.

“My sentimental favourite is the 817 4×4,” he says.

“We have a lot of fun with that product and our customers love it, but we are proud of the whole range and the fact we have access to so many segments that we didn’t when we started this journey 15 years ago.”

Daniel and other Hino management acknowledge there is a lot of cross-over in the current model range in providing customers with a wide choice.

“At Hino globally, we’ve got to look at how many models we are designing and developing, and the Hino engineers have been very good to the Australian market,” he says.

“But we have had to take some action ourselves to minimise the number of models and make it easier on Hino Japan by rationalising our model line-up to eliminate vehicles with limited volume such as manual transmissions as we head towards a 100 per cent two pedal future.”

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