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  • May 21st 2014 at 10:15AM
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2011 Toyota Prius
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Toyota may have an ace up its sleeve in the fuel economy wars, as it's developed a new type of semiconductor that will allegedly help the company's hybrids net a ten-percent improvement in fuel economy.

The tech is still in development, although Toyota is already reporting five-percent gains during testing, six years before it plans to implement the new semiconductor in production vehicles, meaning the ten-percent improvement doesn't seem like an untenable goal. That is, until you hear from Kimimori Hamada, the project general manager of Toyota's electronics division.

"We are aiming for great improvement in fuel economy and miniaturization," Hamada told Automotive News. "This is a very challenging target."

The new semiconductors are made from wafers of silicon carbide, rather than just silicon. The compound is far more efficient, losing just a tenth of the energy that's lost from a normal silicon semiconductor. That not only makes the semiconductor more efficient, but it allows Toyota to use a power control unit that's 80 percent smaller.

While the initial results are promising, silicon carbide is considerably more expensive than silicon, and once acquired, it's more difficult to work with.

"There are still enormous technical barriers," Hamada said.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 8 Comments
      malgu
      • 1 Year Ago
      Read somewhere that it's much easier for Toyota to increase Camry fuel economy by 5% than increasing the Prius' by 5% but they'll still put money towards the Prius development to get the highest number...
      Larry Litmanen
      • 1 Year Ago
      Latest news from Toyota---We are working on improving our cars. Latest news from GM---We are issuing more recalls.
      Arizonarelax
      • 1 Year Ago
      Wow AB is really on top of it. Old news....Can't wait until you tell us about Tesla's advancement of over 300 miles per charge and 20 minute recharge time announced last week.
      methos1999
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ok, I can't help but wonder about this - if this new semiconductor material helps make power electronics more efficient, could it have any impact on conventional (ie processors like Intel & ARM) electronics? Just thinking a more efficient processor could lead to much better battery life in portable electronics...
        Pinhead
        • 1 Year Ago
        @methos1999
        Silicon carbide is a wide bandgap semiconductor, typically good for high voltage applications. It is probably not useful for traditional microprocessors, since it will never achieve defectivity required to yield a modern, billion-plus transistor microprocessor. Plus silicon carbide is only available on small substrates, not the modern 300mm wafers used in microprocessor production.
        SquareFour
        • 1 Year Ago
        @methos1999
        It's a safe bet Intel and etc are already working with silicon carbide, and probably have been for quite some time. I wouldn't be surprised if some tech company already has something silicon carbide ready to go, but it just isn't cost effective to put on the market right now or something. There's so much that factors into development and when a product hits market.
      ssdajoker
      • 1 Year Ago
      I blow past Prii all the time in my Leaf. My next car will be that Tesla!!
      Bobo Bayartsetseg
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ohh nice