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TOYOTA’S TS040 World Endurance Championship race cars, like other cars in the LMP1-H category, are hybrids. So, of course, is the ubiquitous Toyota Prius. What’s more, the company reports that venues such as Le Mans, Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps have been used as proving grounds for elements of the Prius’s next version.
Toyota has dominated the 2014 World Endurance Championship with five out of seven first places. Only one race, at Brazil’s Interlagos, remains (this coming weekend, on November 30). Audi took top honors at Le Mans and Circuit of the Americas, but the Toyota TS040 triumphed at Silverstone, Spa, Fuji, Shanghai and Bahrain.
A new Toyota Prius is scheduled as a 2016 model coming next year, which means that a lot of its engineering and development has already occurred.
One Toyota goal is to enhance Prius fuel economy now that all-electric mpg equivalents have diminished the luster of its EPA 51 mpg city/48 mpg highway/50 mpg combined. Toyota has said that a new silicon carbide semiconductor to be commercialized around 2020 can offer a 10-percent improvement in mpg on its own right.
The company cut fuel consumption of the TS040 WEC car by a remarkable 25 percent compared to that of its 2013 TS030 sibling. (WEC regulations have limits on fuel consumption.) Even more impressive, the new car has more power, 1000 hp versus the TS030’s 750.
The TS040 has been running 2014 WEC races with microchips and microcontrollers destined to appear in the next Prius. The rigors of endurance racing are perfect development settings. Also, like other manufacturers, Toyota rotates its engineers through its racing program. The WEC effort includes 12 hybrid experts, only six of whom are permanent members of the team. The others rotate on six-month stints and then return to production technicalities. This cross-fertilization of road and track is seen as beneficial.
Energy storage is a high-technology aspect of WEC hybrids. As noted in “Energy Storage in WEC LMP1-H” (http://wp.me/p2ETap-2l8), a battery (as used in road-going hybrids) is only one of the options. Porsche’s WEC 919 Hybrid uses one. Audi opts for flywheel storage in an electrical/mechanical system. Toyota uses ultracapacitors, electrostatic devices that accept and release plenty of power.
A road-going Prius doesn’t need such instantaneous conversion of energy. Toyota notes that the TS040 brakes from 300 km/h (186 mph) down to 100 km/h (62 mph) in only three seconds. A road car takes longer to brake to a stop from a mere 60 km/h (37 mph).
On the other hand, pre-production components such as microcontrollers and microchips can be straight carryovers from racing to the road. Also, the WEC TS040 has all-wheel drive, technology that’s being considered as a road-going hybrid option.
Drivers of the next-generation Prius can thank Toyota’s WEC team for its competitive efforts. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2014