TOKYO. The next generation of diesel-electric hybrid trucks are the big stars at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show, which is marking the return of commercial vehicles to the show floor after a four-year absence.

Leading the Japanese manufacturers in alternative power options at the show is Mitsubishi Fuso Trucks, part of the Daimler Truck Group and the center of Daimler’s hybrid technology development. Fuso announced the commercial availability of its Canter Eco Hybrid and unveiled an over-the-road heavy-duty hybrid concept, the Fuso Super Great Eco Hybrid. Also on the show floor making its Japanese debut was an all-electric Canter first shown last fall at the IAA truck show in Hannover.

(Video: Fleet Owner editor-in-chief Jim Mele shows some of the new commercial vehicles being introduced at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show this week, including the Mitsubishi Canter Eco Hybrid)

The midrange Eco Hybrid is based on the new Canter model introduced in North America earlier this year. It’s powered by a 4-cyl. Fuso diesel connected in parallel to an electric motor/generator integrated with the company’s new Duonic dual-clutch transmission. Other significant features include new lithium-ion batteries and a lightweight electric motor assembly that significantly reduces weight compared to earlier hybrids that relied on lead acid batteries.

The Eco Canter goes on sale in Japan in the spring, followed by introduction to other global markets, according to Albert Kirchmann, president & CEO of Mitsubishi Fuso. “We expect a fuel efficiency improvement of 30% compared to the current diesel model,” he said during a press conference at the show.

The concept HD Fuso also features a parallel diesel-electric system, lithium-ion batteries and a lightweight electric motor integrated with the transmission.

“We have documented a 10% fuel efficiency improvement vs. conventional trucks in highway driving,” Kirchmann said. “We definitely see the Super Great Eco Hybrid in our future product line. . . And it is also the case study for heavy-duty hybrid development in Daimler Truck globally.”

“Growth and green innovation will go hand in hand,” said Daimler Truck CEO Andreas Renschler during the Fuso press conference. “Governments expect it and society expects it.”

Hino Motors had its production Dutro Hybrid midrange flanked by a light-duty concept truck that combines a diesel-electric system with plug-in capability. Directly charging the batteries while the truck is parked extends its electric power range, further reducing diesel consumption, according to Hino. A second concept CV - a light-duty cargo van - features all-electric battery power with a lightweight composite body and low, flat cargo floor.

Rounding out the Japanese truck makers hybrid developments on display, Isuzu brought its version of a light-duty plug-in hybrid. The prototype Elf Plug-in is based on the same cab used in its new North American NPR, and features fast recharging using standard household AC current. Other features include use of electric auxiliary power to drive the power steering and vacuum pumps, as well as an inverter that allows it to serve as an emergency or mobile power source.