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Has Toyota saved diesel? HiLux and Fortuner to debut diesel-hybrid engines next year - reports

The new HiLux and Fortuner will reportedly debut diesel-hybrid engines next year (image credit: TopGear Philippines)

Toyota will reportedly launch the new HiLux and Fortuner in 2023 with diesel-hybrid powertrains, potentially breathing new life into an engine technology thought to be on the verge of extinction in the EV era, according to reports out of Thailand.

According to that country’s Headlight Magazine, sources close to Toyota in Thailand have confirmed a 48-volt mild-hybrid system will be fitted to the new Fortuner for a 2023 launch.

The reports don’t specifically call out the HiLux, but where one goes the other follows, and the news matches confirmation from Toyota in New Zealand that a hybrid version of the popular ute would be arriving soon.

According to the reports, the new Fortuner will debut in Thailand next year, and will be packing an electrified-diesel engine under its bonnet, and the brand’s TNGA-F platform under its skin.

The site goes on to claim, from its Toyota sources, that the new Fortuner will continue to be fitted with the familiar 2.8-litre diesel engine (currently good for 150kW and 500Nm). But the big change will be the addition of a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that will not only reduce fuel use and emissions, but should also deliver a power boost on take-off for quicker acceleration.

It means the pieces of Toyota’s diesel-electric puzzle are finally falling into place, with Japanese media reporting a 2023 launch has been on the table since last year.

In fact, Toyota in Australia has been “actively considering” diesel-electric technology for its traditionally diesel-powered range, telling CarsGuide last year that the tech would be a solution for those “particularly wedded to diesel”.

"We know that some people are particularly wedded to diesel. Some farmers, for example, store diesel on their property, or it’s more accessible, or you’re in a region where you can’t have petrol," said the brand's local General Manager of Product Planning and Development, Rod Ferguson.

"There are definite reasons to consider both of those of those options, and we’re actively considering both of those options.

"It's technically feasible, and there are open discussions, definitely. It all comes back to our desire to driver down our C02 emissions."

Toyota also openly believes its HiLux customers would shift to a hybrid powertrain, but the brand is also conscious an electrified dual-cab would still need to deliver on the workhorse pillars of towing, load lugging and off-roading.

"Absolutely they would," said Toyota Australia's VP of sales and marketing, Sean Hanley, in a chat with CarsGuide last year. "If it’s practical, affordable, and it does the things they need to do.

"We’ve never ruled out the expansion of hybrid into the broader Toyota range. If and when we do that, it will be suitable for the Australian environment. We have the knowledge and the testing, so if we deliver it, you can have the confidence it will do what needs to do."

Toyota in New Zealand took the conversation even further in 2020, announcing plans to have a HiLux hybrid model on sale by the end of 2021, with Toyota New Zealand chief executive Neeraj Lala telling Driven.co.nz: "we hope to have HiLux hybrid enter the market before the end of next year”.

That was before the world's supply chains went into full Covid meltdown, of course, but it appears that vision could be about to come true.