Toyota Readies its 2012 Le Mans Hybrid Racer
A welcome addition to the world of prototype racing is the 2012 Toyota hybrid that will make its first appearance at the international 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. The Le Mans race goes back to the term of last century and has been a ground to prove the reliability of cars in a grueling 24 hour race, where speed is not the only factor to winning. Since the original announcement of its participation in the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship back in October, Toyota is opening up the hood of the beast.
Technically Speaking. We know so far the Toyota Hybrid code-named TS030 uses a carbon fiber LMP1 chassis that was developed and produced at the Toyota Motorsport GmbH center in Germany. It will use Toyota’s Toyota Hybrid System Racing, THS-R, with a 3.4L V8 coupled to a supercapacitor energy storage pack designed by Nisshinbo. The idea to use supercapacitors is crucial in a world where weight is the enemy and quick charging versus quick bursts of electron boosts are key to squeezing extra fraction of seconds with accelerations. Supercapacitors, or ultracapacitors, unlike their heavier lithium battery counter parts are very light with the capacity to charge and discharge very quickly. On the other hand, they hold a fairly low energy density. This makes them highly suitable for racing. The hybrid platform was used on the Toyota Supra HVR.
Interestingly enough, the current testing platform is studying whether to use the Aisin designed front and rear electric motor/s or the alternative rear motor system by DENSO. In order to meet the current regulations that limit to 500kJ of energy a hybrid can recover in between braking zones forces, Toyota must find which systems would give the hybrid the best performance. The Aisin system could allow for an all wheel drive platform while the Denso system would limit it to 2.
Toyota is cautious in this year ambition to the Le Mans race. It knows it will most likely not win but aims to develop the technology and show consistent performance results. The 2012 Toyota Le Mans Hybrid should help the company further its development of its hybrid which result should trickle down to mainstream cars eventually.