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The Toyota TS040 Hybrid Le Mans Racer is Testing Next-Gen Prius Tech

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 11/13/2014 Jason Udy

Toyota is testing next-generation hybrid technology in its 2014 TS040 Hybrid Le Mans race car, Automotive News reports. Before you start imagining a Le Mans-spec Prius, much of the technology includes the race car’s microchips and microcontrollers -- not mechanical parts.

"Our components already have parts from the next-generation Prius," Yoshiaki Kinoshita, president of Toyota Motorsport GmbH, told Automotive News.

Endurance racing allows automakers to test new parts under extreme conditions and over extended periods of time. The new electronic components are said to help improve fuel efficiency. As we’ve reported before, the automaker says it wants to increase fuel efficiency for the next-generation Toyota Prius by at least 10 percent. Fuel efficiency is also important in endurance racing. As we’ve previously reported, the next-generation is expected to also be more powerful and better-handling thanks to a revised suspension and lower center of gravity.

Toyota TS040 Hybrid Race Car Front View© Provided by MotorTrend Toyota TS040 Hybrid Race Car Front View

Not only is the 2014 Toyota TS040 Hybrid Le Mans racer more powerful than last year's TS030 (1000 hp vs. 750 hp), it is also 25 percent more fuel-efficient. The current race car also features a four-wheel drive hybrid drivetrain, which uses technology that could trickle down to the next-generation Toyota Prius. One technology that won’t make it from the race car to the Prius is the supercapacitor-based energy storage system. While the race car needs to quickly store and release energy, the street car’s batteries are sufficient for the purposes of commuting.

Toyota is also working on new silicon carbide semiconductors that are said to have 10 percent less energy loss than current silicon chips. Not available until 2020, the automaker says that technology won’t be ready for the fourth-generation Toyota Prius that is set to go sale around December 2015.

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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