Toyota Develops New Energy-Saving Power Chip for Hybrids

Toyota Develops New Energy-Saving Power Chip for Hybrids

by RP Siegel

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Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 4:00pm



In an effort to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions, carmakers have turned to electrification, both in the form of hybrids, as well as battery electrics and fuel cell electrics. Electronics, and the software that inevitably accompanies them these days, provide a much broader  and more flexible creative palette for designers compared to the legacy mechanical systems that are still showing a surprising amount of efficiency improvement.  As Mike Robinson , GM’s VP of Sustainability and Global Regulatory Affairs recently said, “climate change, energy security, and congestion challenge our environment and our industry, but we see value in the disruption.” Indeed, the industry has certainly responded with a substantial wave of innovative products.

Electronics, which have truly exploded into every facet of modern life, have primarily focused on functionality first, followed by cost, with efficiency lagging somewhere down the line. That leaves a lot of opportunity on the table as carmakers not only realize the inherent efficiency benefits that come from electrification, but also invest in further improving the efficiency of some of the key electronic components.

That’s exactly what Toyota has been doing in their Central R&D Labs, and in collaboration with electrical supplier Denso. An early result of this research is a new Power Control Unit (PCU), the chip that manages the exchange of power between the motor, the battery and the regenerative braking system found in hybrids. According to a recent announcement, this relatively small change could improve the fuel economy of the already efficient hybrids, by as much as 10%,

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Image Credit: Portugal Motor Sport: Flickr Creative Commons

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. He has been published in business and technical journals and has written three books. His third, co-authored with Roger Saillant, is Vapor Trails, an eco-thriller that is being adapted for the big screen. RP is a professional engineer – and a prolific inventor, with 50 patents, numerous awards, and several commercial products. He is president of Rain Mountain LLC and is an active environmental advocate in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y. In addition to Justmeans, he writes for Triple Pundit, ThomasNet News, and Energy Viewpoints, occasionally contributing to Mechanical Engineering, Strategy + Business, and Huffington Post. You can follow RP on Twitter, @RPSiegel.