Stick to the road with Hennie

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A diesel-electric debate

Our farm mechanic, Gert, has finally finished restoring the old Toyota Stout that I had parked back in the barn over a decade ago. Gert wants me to advertise the classic workhorse for lots of dollars to collectors in the United States. But I had a lot of firsts on its bench seat – including the first kiss – and I’m keeping the old Toyota.

This required sorting out new ownership papers – and 15 years of unpaid licences. And with the last registered owner long buried, this meant queuing in town.

I sat next to a young man who works as a proxy for fleet owners, and we started talking about the licence fees we pay for trucks. I thought we paid too much.

Highest and lowest licence fees for trucks

“Not so, uncle,” he said. “Here in Mpumalanga we pay below the national average. KwaZulu-Natal charges the highest licence fees for big lorries, and Limpopo the lowest.”

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He explained that the popular 18-tonne Actros truck tractor costs R56 484 to licence in KwaZulu-Natal, but only R41 986 in Limpopo – a saving of R14 498.

He added that all provinces break up the licence fee, with a basic fee up to 12 tonnes, and then another fee charged for each 500kg over the 12-tonne limit.

This is where the provinces make their money and they all have different fees, averaging R2 242 per 500kg or part thereof. He assured me that Limpopo and our home province, Mpumalanga, come in at well below the average, while the other seven provinces are pulling on this tax teat like a hungry calf.

Mpumalanga is not, however, the cheapest when it comes to bakkies and small trucks, instead charging above the national average, while Limpopo’s fees remained the lowest.

“One of my clients, an egg farmer, has four Hino 300 trucks, weighing in at 3,5 tonnes. I can save him over R400 a truck if we register in Limpopo,” he said.

The Hybrid Hino is coming

“He can save himself about 20% in diesel if he orders the new Hino 300 hybrid,” I said. “This little diesel-electric is coming to South Africa in November this year. So far, it will only be to key customers, but I think it will be as popular here as in Australia, where Hino last year sold over 200 units, with orders for over 100 more.”

I pulled up an AutoTrader report which cited a local test by Namlog, a distribution company operating in Southern Africa. Their hybrid Hino numbers showed 20% lower diesel and emissions numbers while it delivered loads of around 579kg in Gauteng.

The proxy guy had meanwhile pulled up the specifications of the hybrid Hino. “Check here,” he said. “The Hybrid 300 starts at 4,5 tonnes, one tonne heavier than its diesel mate. This extra tonne puts it in a higher mass category, which means its licence will cost R1 048 more in Mpumalanga.

“And check this study, which shows electric vehicles wear down their tyres 20% faster than internal combustion cars. Does that 20% saving of yours account for these higher operation costs?” he asked.

I told him the savings on four tanks of diesel would amortise the higher licence cost; and that the tyre wear was due to drivers who accelerate as fast as possible. Drivers who gently accelerate and use regenerative braking do not wear down tyres faster than normal.

Best diesel-battery use

“Hybrid drivetrains allow internal combustion engines to be used at lower revs,” I said. “Check out Edison Motors, a company started in 2021 by a Canadian trucker. He uses a big diesel generator to load a bank of batteries which can make 1 500Hp peak load, all while the diesel engine is just idling.

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“This is the best deployment of diesel and battery power and I predict it may yet change how trucks are made.”

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