Hino has announced it will be adding artificial intelligence to large diesel-electric hybrids to improve fuel efficiency and lower emissions , at a time when rivals are focusing on all-battery-powered electric trucks with a growing pressure to lower green house emissions .

Hino’s announcement comes just a couple of months after its announcement that it has signed a technology sharing agreement with Volkswagen Group and at a time when the market for trucks and other heavy equipment is being disrupted by new technology such as electrification and automated driving.

Rival maker Fusohas already started  selling an all-electric version of its small Canter almost a year ago while U.S. EV maker Tesla  threatens to have on the road by next year.

Hino however is apparently taking a similar approach to its automotive parent, Toyota . This means a focus on hybrid drivetrains and a more incremental approach, announcing hybrid drivetrains for its larger models rather than a wholesale move  to full electrification.

It plans to launch a system in Japan in mid-2019 using GPS and gyro sensors which sense rotational motion, to assess the best way to manage the power system of its heavy duty700 Series or Profia trucks.

Along with existing automatic cruise-control technology the system calculates ways to improve fuel economy by 15 per cent over diesel-only competitors.

“Fuel efficiency in large commercial trucks varies significantly given driving habits,” executive vice president Shin Endo told reporters at Hino’s research and development centre in Tokyo this week.

“With this system the vehicle can achieve better mileage regardless of the skill of the driver,”  said Endo San

Hino plans to sell all-battery commercial trucks from around 2020, though its line-up initially will likely be limited to smaller models due to  range, cost and weight considerations.

“The biggest hurdle to achieving affordable, large-scale EV trucks remains battery size, cost and weight,” Endo said.

“We are developing these, but we believe it will take a while,” Endo said. “We see hybrids becoming the main powertrain used in commercial vehicles by 2030.”

Hino is among the world’s 10 biggest truck makers by sales. It sold around 170,000 trucks last year the majority in Japan and the rest of Asia where it dominates the market for large commercial vehicles.