Toyota and the University of Warwick are in the middle of a three-year joint research project studying silicon carbide's use in electric drivetrains, according to the video above, which is from March 2007. The video includes two Toyota engineers talking about the use of silicon carbide in their hybrids and one engineer even holds the current Prius inverter in his hands. Graham Roberts, one of the Warwick researchers, says he would publish papers on the research like this paper Evaluation of Silicon Carbide Devices for Hybrid Vehicle Drives. Here are the possible advantages of using silicon carbide according to Graham's profile page:

Operating the inverter at higher temperatures will allow a reduction in inverter size, and the possibility of sharing the water cooling circuit of the engine, reducing the space required by the electric drive system, its weight and its cost. New material devices, such as those fabricated in silicon carbide offer potential improvements over existing silicon devices in terms of reduced switching losses, increased operating temperatures and smaller size.

Lets see, a three-year project announced in 2007. Toyota recently said they would release plug-in hybrids in 2010, three years from 2007. Hm, I wonder if Toyota's plug-in Prius will have silicon carbide inverters? Someone at GM better give Warwick a call.

[Source: University of Warwick]

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