Toyota Creating Computer Chips to Improve its Hybrids
With ever-tightening fuel economy regulations and rising gas prices, the heat is on for automakers to improve the efficiency of their vehicles. That presents obvious challenges for gas guzzlers like pickups, but further improving the efficiency of hybrids like the Toyota Prius presents its own unique challenges.
With a car like the Prius, it may seem like there is nowhere for Toyota to go. The engine could be further refined, and more lightweight materials could be used, but those efforts require a great deal of resources. Toyota might have an elegant solution, in the form of an improved computer chip.
According to Business Insider, Toyota and its partner Desno have collaborated on a semiconductor designed to limit power loss and can even mean applying its hybrid powertrain to new vehicles.
The semiconductor component might be new for automotive application, but has been used in trains and air conditioners for years. It is constructed using silicon carbide, and allows for Toyota to potentially downsize its hybrid powertrains. In this application, it would allow Toyota to reduce the size of its Power Control Unit (PCU) to a fifth of its current mass.
This reduction in size and weight will marginally improve efficiency by reducing mass, but will also improve power management. The smaller size means that there will be more options for vehicles that can receive Toyota’s hybrid powertrain. According to the report, the Japanese automaker wants to have this technology in its vehicles by 2020.