The supercapacitor technology in the Toyota TS040 "offers great possibility for production car use." – Amanda Rice, Toyota

Pop-culture junkies familiar with 1980s touchstone movies will hear the word "capacitor" and think Back to the Future. But the concept of supercapacitors being used in upcoming production models is being pushed by Toyota, not DeLorean. And because of that push, the future might look a little brighter for the Prius.

The Japanese automaker will likely apply electric-motor technology used in Toyota's 24 Hours of Le Mans entry – the TS040 – in future versions of the world's best-selling hybrid, Australian publication Drive.com.au says, citing an interview with Toyota Motor Sports' Yoshiaki Kinoshita. Specifically, the racecar uses supercapacitors because they're effective at storing energy created when the vehicle is under braking, only to quickly redistribute it on demand for rapid acceleration. Kinoshita said Toyota may apply this technology to the Prius within the next five years.

While declining to comment on specifics, Toyota spokeswoman Amanda Rice tells AutoblogGreen that the Le Mans vehicle "represents an advanced vehicle laboratory for hybrid vehicle and component development. The supercapacitor technology used in this vehicle with its fast charge and discharge capability offers great possibility for production car use." In her email, Rice added that the next-generation Prius will have smaller electric motors with greater power density and thermal efficiency, so let's add that to what we know or think we know about the fourth-generation model.

Toyota entered two vehicles in this year's Le Mans race, and one of them had secured the pole-position and was leading much of the race before calling it quits 15 hours in because of electrical issues. Audi ended up winning the race, marking its 13th victory in the history of the French endurance contest.


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  • 25 Comments
      normc32
      • 6 Months Ago
      And there was no other manufacturer show casing new technology? http://www.digitalspy.ca/tech/feature/a578275/how-le-mans-is-bringing-new-technology-to-the-road.html
      2 wheeled menace
      • 6 Months Ago
      Speaking of which.. what's up with the 2015 Prius? :)
      11fiveoh
      • 6 Months Ago
      It would be really sweet if toyota came out with some awesome sports hybrid that carried the prius name.
        EZen
        • 6 Months Ago
        @11fiveoh
        Horrible idea. The Prius name is dead to anyone that cares about the thrill of driving. It is a tainted brand even for many regular drivers.
          11fiveoh
          • 6 Months Ago
          @EZen
          A good sports car would liven up the whole name. I'd much rather them do that than to bastardize the supra name with a hybrid sports car.
          AP1_S2K
          • 5 Months Ago
          @EZen
          brands can change, especially if the change embodies what the brand stands for.
      wilkegm
      • 6 Months Ago
      In a proper hybrid, capacitors can only work well in tandem with a battery. In that arrangement, however, they. Have some huge advantages. They are much more energy efficient. Electricity iss not converted back and forth to chemical energy, which is a lossy process. They can absorb and deliver bursts of power better than a battery. With the capacitor acting as a buffer of incoming and outgoing high current demands, the battery can be constructed more efficiently.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 6 Months Ago
        @wilkegm
        Incorrect. High charge/discharge rate lithium batteries already exist, and sending/receiving power to them is not a lossy process, unless you think that a ~1% energy loss is so substantial that it must be addressed by adding an additional sub-battery system. The difference that matters is cycle life and weight. With a capacitor, you have mind-blowing cycle life, but extremely high weight. With a super low internal resistance battery, you have 1/5th the weight and size of the best supercapacitor, but cycle life that leaves something to be desired. There is no 'best solution' for this problem at this time.
      lad
      • 5 Months Ago
      "within five years." By the time this tech hits the streets the Prius will have been a "Been-us." Toyota has got to be the slowest at implementing new tech in the World. A whole lot of vapor.
      BipDBo
      • 6 Months Ago
      Compared to batteries, capacitors have much higher power output and recharge density (kw per kg), but much lower energy storage density (kw*hr per kg) This makes capacitors a good application for a racecar, but also a traditional hybrid and start/stop because with fairly low weight, it can take a lot of energy in during regenerative braking and then release it quickly for acceleration. It's a bad application, however for a plug-in hybrid. Perhaps a higher performance plug-in hybrid could use a combination battery capacitor. In general, this is another piece of evidence that Toyota is convinced that customers don't want to plug-in at home, or wait at a plug anywhere else. They are pushing capacitors and hydrogen, while they're battery plug-in efforts were pathetic. The Prius plug-in is extremely overpriced and inferior to every other plug-in, so much so that it looks like they were trying for nobody to buy it. For BEV, they just hired Tesla to build them a California compliance car. Toyota obviously wants no part in plug-in technology, and that is eventually going to come back to bite them.
        PeterScott
        • 6 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        Energy density is so much worse even a conventional hybrid like the Prius would lose it's short range EV mode and turn into more of start-stop system. IIRC ~1KWh Hybrid batteries are typically 50lbs+. That would be 500lbs+ of supercaps. Or more realistically you get a 50 lb 0.1KWh supercap pack.
      Steven
      • 6 Months Ago
      Typical Toyota... Talk about anything other than making an exciting product. Keep cranking out those four-wheeled appliances, T..
      Rick
      • 5 Months Ago
      Even their Le Mans cars are ugly.
      Smoking_dude
      • 6 Months Ago
      what the 2015 prius (plug-in) needs is a bigger battery. Make it at least 12 kWh. As the Prius is very frugal it should be able to travel a nice distance with it. And also add CHADEMO! Mitsubishi added fast charging to its outlander PHEV. It makes the car far more useful. One bathroom break one cup of coffee and you have ~30 additional gas free miles or 60 to 80 blended miles with low gas consumption. so the prius would really be able to take back the lost market shares from ford with its energi models.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        But then it wouldn't be a crappy compliance car and Toyota would sell too many of them. ...the horrors...
        dreadcthulhu01
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        Bumping up the battery size to at least 16 kWh would make more sense - that is when the full $7,500 federal tax credit kicks in. Right now, after you factor in the tax credit, a Volt ends up costing about the same as a plug in Prius, despite having a fair bit high initial price.
      bK
      • 6 Months Ago
      Whats up with these hybrid racers headlights going 90 degrees? is it more aerodynamic?
        BipDBo
        • 5 Months Ago
        @bK
        Wind goes around the fender rather than over it. That creates a high pressure zone over the center sloped "hood" for lack of a better term, which generates more downforce. Perhaps it's because I know the function of it, I think it looks really cool.
        EZen
        • 6 Months Ago
        @bK
        Must be. No other reason to make it look like that, barring regulations which wouldn't make sense to me.
      Greg Cocchiaro
      • 6 Months Ago
      Mazda already is using capacitors on its Mazda6 and Mazda3.
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 6 Months Ago
      To late Toyota, a company called Eestor already has this super cap thing covered. Dick Ware the CEO of Eestor says their is secret white powder involved with the manufacturing of the super cap. I don't know if any gets by Dick for use in the super cap?
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