Semiconductors and Components

Toyota Begins Silicon Carbide Chip Trial

05 February 2015

In order to test the efficiency that silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductors could bring to hybrids and electric vehicles (EV), Toyota plans to begin a trial run of cars in Japan where the power control unit (PCU) will be motorized by SiC chips.

Toyota said it hopes that through the trial it will find significant efficiency improvements that could lead to better performance in future hybrids and other vehicles with electric powertrains. Power semiconductors are found in the PCU, which controls motor drive in hybrid and EVs, supplying battery power to the motors during operation as well as recharging the battery using energy recovered in deceleration.

Currently, power semiconductors only represent about 20 percent of a vehicle’s total electrical loss, Toyota said. As a result, if the car giant can raise the efficiency of the power semiconductors, it can raise the efficiency of the overall powertrain.

Toyota is using SiC power semiconductors it jointly developed with Denso Corp. and Toyota Central R&D Labs Inc.

In a Camry hybrid prototype, Toyota said it will install SiC power semiconductors into the PCU internal voltage step-up converter and the inverter that controls the motor. The company will then gather data on voltage and current as well as driving speeds, patterns and conditions related to outside temperature. The company will compare the information with that of semiconductors currently found in hybrid vehicles. Road testing is slated to begin in early February and will continue for one year.

Toyota added that data from the testing will be reflected in development with the goal being adding SiC power semiconductors into practical use as soon as possible.

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Related links:

IHS Automotive & Transportation

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