Just when everyone (and by everyone, I am not meaning gearheads) was beginning to wonder if Toyota was done making the Prius even more efficient, the automaker has announced it has developed a new chip that can transfer electricity though the drivetrain without losing any of the energy. The diamond-shaped chips would increase the fuel economy of the Prius by up to 10 percent, making the car even more tempting for those looking to save on gas. The end result might be more of the hybrid cars clogging up left lanes while traveling 50 mph, but at least they won’t be guzzling gas while doing it.
Part of the scientific wizardry that Toyota has employed in the creation of the new chips is a semiconductor that is fabricated out of silicon carbide, making the chips more durable, smaller and obviously more efficient than what is currently being used. Silicon carbine is certainly not a new material since it was invented way back in the 1800s. Common applications include carbon ceramic brakes and body armor for soldiers and police. The material is counted among the hardest in the world.
Toyota realized that silicon carbide does an excellent job of conducting electricity. By using the new material, Toyota says the size of the power control unit in the Prius could be shrunk by up to 80 percent.
Before you put on your Birkenstocks and run to your nearest Toyota dealership, the new technology isn’t exactly coming in the next year. Toyota is ramping up to road-test it in Japan in the latter part of 2014, but a consumer version of the technology likely won’t be hitting dealerships until 2020 or later.