Toyota Prius Could Get Le Mans Supercapacitor Tech



Why do automakers race? It’s more than just marketing, as motorsports serve as a test bed for new technology that could one day come to road cars. Toyota is exploring the possibility of bringing supercapacitor technology developed for their Le Mans race car to the Prius hybrid.

The Toyota TS040 uses a naturally aspirated V8 engine mated to two supercapacitors that recover braking energy 60 times faster than the current Prius Synergy drive. The supercapacitors can then dole out the energy quickly and efficiently, boosting fuel economy significantly. According to Drive, Toyota is proposing a system that uses this energy to begin initial acceleration, a time when the gas engine is its least efficient. Delivering short bursts of power would get the Prius going to a speed where the gas engine can take over without much effort.

This technology isn’t likely to show up soon though, with Toyota Motorsport team principal Yoshiaki Kinoshita saying that it could come to prodution cars “in the next five years”, meaning it probably won’t debut on the next-generation Prius due out in the next year or so. Meanwhile, Mazda has already integrated supercapacitors into the Mazda6 i-ELOOP system to enhance the start-stop system. This makes the mid-size sedan capable of 40 MPG, not that far behind the Prius and its vaunted 50 MPG rating.

Are Supercapacitors the secret to the next level of fuel efficiency?

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • UncleB

    Combining this technology with recent diesel advances and an aluminum/carbon fiber body could bring in a whole new breed of cars, and the forerunners to a fully electric system that will amaze! Imagine super-capacitors taking on an instant charge to refill Li batteries? Better yet, advances in super capacitors and full dependence on them, at higher voltages than Li batteries for more compact power storage? We are just peeking into the future now . . .

    • Bi-Polar Bear

      Indeed we are, UncleB. Most of us thought the ICE was dead in the 80’s, but 35 years later it makes more power with fewer emissions and gets far greater fuel economy then we ever thought possible.

      That same pace of development will occur with regard to battery technology over the next 35 years. The electric cars of today will look like ox carts in a few years.

      While that is a good thing in the long term, it bodes ill for those who rush out to buy an electric today and wind up with a car that features outmoded technology in a few years. That won’t be good for resale value, in my estimation.

  • UncleB

    I see Ultra Capacitors capable of Higher voltages, even 50 v units for a huge Power increase . . .