Toyota has begun testing new technology that could make hybrids and other vehicles with electric powertrains even more economical.
A year long trial has begun in Japan which will assess the performance levels of new power semi-conductors that utilise a silicon carbide (SiC) material fitted to a Camry hybrid saloon prototype and a hydrogen fuel cell-powered bus.
Power semiconductors are present in the power control units that operate the motor drive power in hybrids and other vehicles that use an electric powertrain.
These units control the flow of electricity by sending power from the battery to the motors when the car is being driven – recharging with energy that’s stored when the car is braking or decelerating.
When compared with the current silicon power semiconductors – the new, high-quality SiC type create less resistance when electricity flows through them.
This latest technology has been engineered jointly by Toyota, the Denso Corporation and Toyota Central R&D Labs.
In the Camry hybrid prototype, Toyota is installing SiC power semiconductors in the PCU’s internal voltage step-up converter and the inverter that controls the motor.
The system collects data, including PCU voltage and current, driving speeds, patterns and conditions, such as outside temperature.
It is by comparing this information with data from the silicon semiconductors currently in operation that Toyota will be able to properly asses the level of efficiency improvement achieved.
A Camry road test will begin in early February in Toyota City and run for about a year.
Following on from the Camry road test – Toyota hope to have their state-of-the art Fuel Cell saloon, the Mirai, on sale in Europe by the end of the year.
Pricing for the Mirai is expected to come in at around £43,450 with availability at first limited to the regions in which hydrogen refuelling stations are available.
On sale in Japan by April of 2015, Toyota aims to have the Sedan ready for European and US markets by the end of the year, with prices to be announced closer to the time.