Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R Concept: When Batteries Aren't Enough

The heart of a LeMans car and the soul of a gamer

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The Toyota Yaris Hybrid-R concept uses electric power for maximum performance, and enjoys GranTurismo as much as any gearhead gamer. What's not to love?

Well, we've finally seen it in the flesh at the Frankfurt Auto Show, and it's just as intense—and small—as we expected. It also gives Toyota a chance to show off their hybrid lineup, which they're pushing hard amidst upcoming European Union emissions regulations. Every single car on the stand in Frankfurt, for instance, was a hybrid.

The words "Yaris" and "hybrid" may not evoke high performance, but this subcompact has an impressive trick up its sleeve. Instead of pairing a battery with a gasoline engine, as other hybrids do, the Yaris Hybrid-R relies on a super capacitor. That means it has more in common with the Toyota TS030 Hybrid racing car than any Prius.

Like batteries, super capacitors store energy. But unlike batteries, super capacitors can only "dump" large amounts of energy at one time. That makes them ideal for racing applications, where short bursts of power are often needed.

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The TS030 racer is the inspiration for the Yaris Hybrid-R

For the purposes of the Yaris Hybrid-R, that means the super capacitor can instantly send energy to 60 hp motors located at each rear wheel. With "Track" mode engaged, the little Yaris Hybrid-R is good for a combined 420 hp in five second bursts—120 hp from the electric motors at the wheels, and another 300 hp from a gasoline-powered 1.6 L turbocharged Toyota Global Race Engine, specifically created for motorsports.

Up front, there's a third electric motor that recharges the super capacitor during deceleration. It can also act as a highly advanced form of traction control, redirecting power to the appropriate rear wheel in case grip is lost.

Also impressive is an ECU that can use the upcoming Gran Turismo 6 video game for practice laps. Choose to race the Yaris Hybrid-R in the game, and your console can send virtual lap data back to the car. That allows the real-world Yaris Hybrid-R to anticipate corners, acceleration, and braking, optimizing engine and traction control management accordingly. A similar ECU is in the Scion FR-S, but that one can only send track data back to your video game console.

Though we would love to try it out, you'll never see the Yaris Hybrid-R on public roads. This hottest of hatches is just a showcase for Toyota's racing technology, which seems to ascribe to the "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" mantra.

Didier Leroy, head of Toyota Europe, even took a shot at Audi and their R18 diesel-electric hybrid LeMans racer. "Even though nobody can buy a diesel hybrid from our motorsport competitor," Leroy said, "People can—and do—buy hybrids from Toyota."

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