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History Of Hybrid Cars

Hybrid vehicles are far from being a new invention, although hybrid cars that combine a gasoline engine and electric batteries have really come to the fore as we search for less expensive and less damaging methods to power vehicles. Hybrid engines and power sources have been used in transport for hundreds of years and while the greatest advances may have occurred in the last few years it's possible to trace the history of hybrid electric cars much further back.

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Early History Of Hybrid Cars

Porsche – The Leading Light In Modern Hybrid Cars?

One of the earliest gasoline electric cars was the Mixte, designed and developed by Ferdinand Porsche in 1901. Many of the characteristics of the series hybrid engine are still in regular and constant use in the hybrid cars of today. The series hybrid design worked so well that Porsche himself won the 1901 Exelberg Rally driving his creation. For its day, the 50km/h car with a range of 50km was well ahead of its time.

A gasoline engine was used to power a generator which, in turn, drove a small series of motors. The electric engine was used to give the car a little bit of extra power. This method of series hybrid engine is still in use today, although obviously with further enhancements to provide better performance and greater fuel savings.

The Woods Motor Vehicle Dual Power - 1915

It was in 1915 that Woods Motor Vehicle manufacturers created the Dual Power hybrid vehicle. Rather than combining the two power sources to give a single output of power, the Dual Power used an electric battery motor to power the engine at low speeds (below 25km/h) and used the gasoline engine to carry the vehicle from these low speeds up to its 55km/h maximum speed. The Dual Power was more than a one off vehicle, going into production and creating 600 before the company ceased production three years later in 1918.

The Godfather Of The Hybrid - 1960s

Victor Wouk, in the 1960s and 1970s was a fastidious proponent and designer of hybrid electric vehicles. His work in helping create numerous hybrid designs earned him the nickname of the “Godfather of the Hybrid”. In 1976 he even converted a Buick Skylark from gasoline to hybrid but his work was stopped due to scandal within the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Regenerative Braking System - 1978

Modern hybrid cars rely on the regenerative braking system. When a standard combustion engine car brakes, a lot of power is lost because it dissipates into the atmosphere as heat. Regenerative braking means that the electric motor is used for slowing the car and it essentially collects this power and uses it to help recharge the electric batteries within the car. This development alone is believed to have progressed hybrid vehicle manufacture significantly.

The Regenerative Braking System, however, is not a new concept and was first designed and developed in 1978 by David Arthurs. Using standard car components he converted an Opel GT to offer 75 miles to the gallon and many home conversions are done using the plans for this system that are still widely available on the Internet.

Partnership For A New Generation Of Vehicles (PNGV) - 1993

In 1993, Bill Clinton's administration recognized the urgency for the mass production of cars powered by means other than gasoline. Numerous government agencies, as well as Chrysler, Ford, GM, and USCAR combined forces in the PNGV (Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles). The remit of this body was to create cars using alternative power sources, including the development and improvement of hybrid electric vehicles.

The Modern History Of Hybrid Cars - 1990s

Despite the big names involved in this collaboration, it was Toyota and Honda that began to lead the way in the production of hybrid electric vehicles. The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius were two of the first mainstream Hybrid Electric Vehicles and both models remain a popular line, while Toyota and Honda have firmly established themselves as being leading lights in the development of hybrid cars and green SUVs and improved hybrid technologies.

The Audi Duo was the first European hybrid car put into mass production in 1997 and hybrid production and consumer take up has continued to go from strength to strength over the decades. The increase in this popularity has, unsurprisingly, also seen an increase in the number of different models that are available and even the types of car that use a hybrid electric engine.

The Hybrid SUV

The SUV has long been criticized for its high fuel consumption and a hybrid Ford Escape was released in 2005. Toyota and Ford essentially swapped patents with one another, Ford gaining a number of Toyota patents relating to hybrid technology and Toyota, in return, gaining access to Diesel engine patents from Ford.

Hybrid Cars Present And Future

Toyota is the most prominent of all manufacturers when it comes to hybrid cars. As well as the specialist hybrid range they have produced hybrid versions of many of their existing model lines, including several Lexus (now owned and manufactured by Toyota) vehicles. They have also stated that it is their intention to release a hybrid version of every single model they release in the coming decade.

As well as cars and SUVs, there are a select number of hybrid motorcycles, pick ups, vans, and other road going vehicles available to the consumer and the list is continually increasing. While hybrids were once easy to recognize and failed to deliver the same kind of performance as their purely ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) counterparts this has ceased to be the case with modern developments and technologies.

The Long History Of Hybrid Cars

The history of hybrid cars is much longer and more involved than many first imagine. It is, however, in the last ten years or so that we, as consumers, have begun to pay more attention to the hybrid vehicle as a viable alternative to ICE driven cars. Whether looking for a way to save money on spiraling gas costs or in an attempt to help reduce the negative effects on the environment we are buying hybrid cars much more frequently.

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