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Silicon Carbide Chip Could Achieve 10 Percent Higher Fuel Efficiency for Toyota Hybrids

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Silicon Carbide Chip

(Left to right) PCU with silicon power semiconductors(Production model); PCU with SiC power semiconductors(Future target)

Whenever a Toyota Prius crosses your path, chances are your immediate thought is its excellent fuel efficiency—and at 50 mpg combined, it’s a fair first thought. But what if you could drive a Toyota hybrid and get up to 10 percent higher fuel efficiency than currently offered? Personally, we’d hop on that hybrid train as quickly as possible without looking back. Thanks to a recent development by Toyota, the green technology to make this a reality could be coming to all Toyota hybrid models sooner than you’d think.

The technology in question is a silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductor chip that would be used in automotive power control units. Carbide is one of nature’s hardest materials—second only to diamonds—and potentially has one-tenth less electrical power loss and up to 10 times the drive frequency of the chips currently used in Toyota’s hybrid models, including the Prius, Camry Hybrid, and Avalon Hybrid. Replacing the current chip will allow Toyota to reduce the size of current automotive power control units by 80 percent.

Silicon Carbide Chip

(Left to right) Silicon power semiconductor wafer (transistor); SiC power semiconductor wafer (transistor)

Toyota will begin testing the silicon carbide chip in vehicles on public roads in Japan within the next year, and we could see the technology start appearing in Toyota hybrids by 2020. According to reports, Toyota has already achieved a 5 percent increase in fuel efficiency in its test vehicles equipped with the SiC power semiconductor chips, and hopes to achieve a 10 percent improvement once it begins testing these vehicles on public roads.

Stay tuned to The News Wheel for more updates on this exciting new technology as we get them!