writes "Automakers are scrambling to increase vehicle fuel economy every year as regulations increase, so when an automaker finds a way to possibly increase fuel economy by 10 percent with one new part, that gets some attention. Today that automaker is Toyota, and the part is a new semiconductor. Toyota's power control units (PCU) in its hybrids use semiconductors to govern the flow of electricity between the battery and the electric motor. Unfortunately, they're also an electrically restrictive component. Toyota says the PCU accounts for a quarter of the total electrical power losses in a hybrid drive system, and semiconductors alone make up a full fifth of the total. Reduce electrical losses through a semiconductor, and you can make your hybrid system (and therefore your car) more efficient. Toyota has done this, in theory at least, using a new silicon carbide material for its semiconductors, rather than a standard silicon unit. The future could be shaped by individual parts, and this new semiconductor tech is one piece of that puzzle."