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Australia’s global role in Toyota hybrid development

Electric dreams: Toyota Technical Centre Australia is working on software for Toyota's hybrid system.

Local software know-how places Aussie hybrid engineers in high regard at Toyota HQ

Toyota logo19 Apr 2012

AUSTRALIAN mechanical engineers who also happen to have strong software knowledge are placing Toyota’s local vehicle development operation in high regard globally, and the Melbourne-based team is providing technical expertise to Japan for inclusion on all its hybrid products.

Toyota Technical Centre Australia (TTCAu) is one of just three locations in the world working on software for Toyota’s hybrid drive program.

At this week’s launch of Toyota’s second-generation Aurion large car, TTCAu assistant general manager of body engineering Gerald Kent told GoAuto the organisation is now developing a system that helps test and debug electronic control units (ECUs) for the company’s future hybrid systems.

Called Virtual ECU, the system provides a virtual environment in which to simulate the control unit’s various inputs and outputs, meaning more of the fine-tuning process can be done earlier, on a test bench, rather than at the proving ground or on the road.

Having already worked on the motor generator control software for the locally-built Camry Hybrid, TTCAu is looking to strengthen its position within Toyota globally by moving from implementing the technology to taking a more active role in its development.

“We’ve got very strong mechanical engineers with software knowledge and they have established themselves very well in a global position to provide that technical expertise to Japan for inclusion to all models,” said Mr Kent.

“The Virtual ECU is a virtual environment for testing and debugging the software necessary to drive the vehicle, so it is moving that step further ahead of the development curve.

“That is where we see our skills, more in the advanced side of it rather than the implementation side.”

 center imageFrom top: Toyota Camry Hybrid, Prius C and Prius.

It is another example of Australian expertise being used by the three car-makers that manufacture vehicles Down Under to aid global projects.

Most examples to date have been of design and engineering, as with the global Ford T6 (Ranger/Mazda BT-50) project, Ford Figo light car for India and GM Holden’s recent announcement that it has won a contract to develop two cars for the Chinese market.

Toyota found itself in a unique position as the only manufacturer to build hybrids in Australia when it introduced the Camry Hybrid.

Mr Kent said when TTCAU started working on hybrid software it was focused on motor-generator control.

He explained the original contribution as “aimed at controlling how individual motors work and how they feed back into the system in response to accelerator input, vehicle dynamics and so-on”.

“What we have done is moved strategically ahead of that so we are not just looking at the control of the vehicle, but at the establishment of tools that are used to simulate the specific controls that are developed so that when they are implemented into vehicles they operate smoothly.”

In addition to the locally built Camry and Aurion sedans, TTCAu is taking a lead role in tuning the chassis of the next HiLux and working on the next-generation HiLux-based Fortuner SUV, built in Thailand alongside its one-tonner sibling and sold in developing markets such as Asia, the Middle East and South America.

TTCAu also plays a large part in the development of integrated electronic systems such as blind-spot monitoring and adaptive headlights and conducts suitability testing for four-wheel-drive vehicles.

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