Toyota to use hybrid tech from its Le Mans racer in the next Prius

It’s expected that carmakers will apply lessons learned on the track to production cars, but it’s hard to believe Toyota’s TS040 Hybrid Le Mans racer and the humble Prius could have anything in common.

Yet the upcoming 2016 Prius will use some components adapted from the racing program, Toyota Motorsport president Yoshiaki Kinoshita told Automotive News (subscription required).

The parts in question are pretty small, though. They include microcontrollers, semiconductors, and other electronics hardware used to improve the efficiency of the powertrain.

In addition, engineers working on hybrid road-car development were cycled through the racing program for six months at a time.

Rumor has it that the next Prius will also be available with all-wheel drive, and some have taken the use of all-wheel drive in the TS040 racer as a hint at this. However, Toyota hasn’t confirmed anything, and a system designed for the Prius would likely be different from anything designed for the track.

The next Prius is expected to stick with the recognizable five-door hatchback layout, with somewhat sportier styling and a boost to 55 mpg combined.

It’s also expected to offer two battery packs – a nickel-metal hydride version like the one in the current Prius for base models, and a lithium-ion pack for other models.

So while the 2016 Prius won’t resemble a racecar, at least some of its components will be battle tested.

We’d all love to see racing tech transmogrified directly into the cars we can actually, but oftentimes the ability to test components under extreme conditions is more valuable to manufacturers than developing a specific gizmo for production cars out of nowhere.

It may sound mundane, but this is often how carmakers glean engineering insight from their racing efforts.