Toyota revealed a new semiconductor that will help it extend its lead in hybrid technology. According to the Japanese carmaker, the new semiconductor promises to boost the fuel efficiency of Toyota’s hybrid cars by up to 10 percent. The new semiconductor is able to manage the flow of electricity through the vehicles’s battery, motor and generator.
In addition, the semiconductor needs only a tenth of the energy of the current chips used by Toyota’s hybrid vehicles. Moreover, this enables the power control unit that integrates the battery, motor and generator, to be 80 percent smaller.
According to Automotive News, the new semiconductors will deliver 10 percent better fuel efficiency due to the fact that less energy is lost when the battery powers the vehicle’s electric motor or when the regenerative brakes recharge the battery.
Toyota already opened a semiconductor development building at the Hirose plant in Toyota City, back in December. The plant currently produces semiconductors used by the current Toyota hybrid models. The new semiconductors use silicon carbide, instead of simply silicon.
Apparently, silicon carbide wafers have some advantages when compared to the current semiconductors, as the silicon carbide semiconductors lose only a tenth of the energy loss of the silicon-based chips used today.
According to Toyota, the new silicon carbide semiconductors will be used by hybrid or all-electric drivetrains, mated to lithium-ion or nickel metal batteries. [source: automotive news - sub. required]