A technology that could lead to significant improvements in the efficiency of hybrid and other vehicles with electric powertrains is set to start testing in Japan.

The test, conducted by Toyota Motor Corp., will evaluate the performance of silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductors using a Camry hybrid prototype and a fuel cell bus.

Currently, power semiconductors account for about 20% of a vehicle's total electrical losses. Increasing the efficiency of the power semiconductors is one way to increase vehicle powertrain efficiency.

Toyota will install the SiC power semiconductors in the Camry hybrid prototype’s power control units (PCU’s) internal voltage step-up converter and the inverter that controls the motor. Toyota will collect data on the PCU voltage, driving speeds, patterns and conditions, and then compare that data to that of the silicon semiconductors currently in use.

Road testing of the Camry prototype will start in early February 2015 and last for about one year.

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