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Toyota hybrid racer tech trickles down to next-gen Prius

by Ben Hsu

Toyota takes lessons learned from its Le Mans racer to the street.

The next generation Toyota Prius, set to debut as a 2016 model, will utilize technology from Toyota's Le Mans hybrid race car. The Prius may also get an all-wheel-drive option as well.

Toyota may not have won Le Mans, but it's currently holding the most points in the manufacturers' rankings in the FIA World Endurance Championships (of which Le Mans is just one stop on the roster). Speaking with , Toyota Motorsport GmbH president Yoshiaki Kinoshita confirmed that the upcoming Prius revamp will indeed draw on goodies developed from the race car.

The parts in question are made of silicon rather than steel, Kinoshita revealed, indicating that semiconductors, controllers and methods of stemming losses in the electric drivetrain, rather than any mechanical bits, are the real leap forward in technology.

Fuel management has always been the Prius's forte, but it was also a key strategy to winning races in which refueling stops add precious seconds to the clock. The 2014 TS040 racer saw a massive 25 percent bump in fuel economy over last year's TS030 while at the same time upping power from 750 to 1000hp. An all-wheel-drive hybrid drivetrain was tossed in as well, leading to hints that the next Prius would have an AWD variant.

To ensure the flow of technology from circuit to street, Toyota engineers work on the hybrid race car program for six-month rotations, and are then reassigned to Toyota City where hybrid road car development takes place.

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