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  May 22, 2014

Toyota the World’s biggest hybrid car maker has announced development of a new form of semiconductor that will improve the fuel efficiency of its hybrids and electric vehicles by as much as 10 per cent. This figure seems to be half reality right now as current prototypes are only showing half improvement over the previous figure, but it’s still early days as the technology will be tested on public roads by the end of the year. The semiconductor doesn’t sound exciting but they are essential in hybrids and EVs. They are located within the power control unit (PCU), they oversee the flow of electricity from battery to motor, as well storing the power when breaking. Toyota also responded to the challenge of the latest range-extending EVs by increasing the battery range of the World’s best selling hybrid vehicle, Prius. To take the charge on the Chevrolet Volt and Vauxhall Ampera, Toyota has fitted the Prius Plug-in with the latest lithium-ion batteries to increase the EV range from one or two miles to around 15miles on a single charge. The new Plug-in gets a higher-capacity battery which can be recharged via a socket in the rear wing. It is cheaper than a BMW i3 but is more expensive than the standard Prius. The Plug-In comes equipped with luxuries like climate control, heated seats and a touchscreen sat-nav as standard. Currently PCUs loose 20 per cent of all the energy in hybrid vehicles and to tackle this problem, Toyota has developed this new semiconductor developed with help from Denso and is made of silicon carbide instead of traditional silicon. Whether it works as predicted remains to be seen, but an early glimpse of the technology is currently available at the 2014 Automotive Engineering Exposition in Yokohama.

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