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Published Date: 02/06/2014

As is its nature, Toyota is set to improve its cars once again, by aiming to achieve a 10 per cent rise in the fuel efficiency of its models.

Semiconductor Technology
The fuel efficiency improvements will be focused on Toyota’s hybrid and other electric-powered vehicles.

Toyota aims to succeed in this endeavour by using a new power semiconductor technology, which plays a key role in hybrid systems.

Semiconductors are located in the power control unit (PCU) of a hybrid car, the PCU governs the flow of electricity from the battery to the electric motor and sends electricity generated under braking and deceleration to the battery for storage.

Basically, this is the central nervous system of a Toyota hybrid or electric powered vehicle.

However, PCUs also happen to account for around 25 per cent of the total electrical power loss in hybrid vehicles, in fact 20 per cent of those losses occur in the semiconductor of a model.

To combat this problem, Toyota has found that using a new silicon carbide (SiC) compound instead of traditional silicon to build semiconductors, substantially reduces energy losses.

Silicon carbide, is a hard, crystalline compound of silicon and carbon that is almost as hard as diamond. Its properties make it a perfect substance for a semiconductor as it is hard-wearing, has a resistance to chemical reaction and to high temperatures.

Using this compound in Toyota hybrids will also mean that the PCU will be able to be reduced in size by almost 80 per cent.

The SiC semiconductors have yet to be road tested, but plans are to go ahead for public trials within a year.

Produced in-house for by Toyota, the innovative SiC power semiconductor programme is to be showcased at the 2014 Automotive Engineering Exposition in Yokohama, Japan in late May.

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