The Story Of Hybrid Cars

by : Levi Quinn

With rising gas prices and the increasing threat to environmental issues presented by conventional automobiles, there is a cultural shift towards alternate methods of fuelling and operating vehicles. One such method is the hybrid electric vehicle. At one point and time in history, the electric car existed. Through a combination of government intervention, oil company wrangling, and advertising blunders, the electric car went the way of the dinosaur. In its place, the hybrid electric car appears to be the suitable compromise. Fans and owners of the electric car, however, will forever pine for better options.

The original hybrid car actually was introduced in 1901 by the form of a hybrid vehicle introduced by Ferdinand Porsche. The vehicle, which was called the "Mixte," was based off of other models and used a gasoline engine which powered a generator which, in turn, powered electric hub motors. The "Mixte" used a small battery pack for reliability and actually broke several Austrian speed records for land vehicles.

The 1915 "Dual Power" was another example of hybrid technology at work within automobiles. This model was made by the Woods Motor Vehicle company, which was a company that actually specialized in making electric cars. As the "Dual Power" drove below 15 mile per hour, the electric motor would alone drive the vehicle. As it sped up, the car would tap into its gasoline powered engine. By 1918, about 600 models of the "Dual Power" were made.

Time passed without much support from oil companies or some of the larger car companies, who believed that vehicles of this nature were not marketable to a large populous. As time passed into the 1960s and 1970s, the hybrid car once again reared its head in the form of Victor Wouk and his conversion of a Buick Skylark into a direct-current electric motor with a Mazda rotary engine for hybrid capabilities.

Wouk's vehicle was tested at the Environmental Protection Agency's emissions testing lab and it was shown that the converted car had gained over twice the fuel economy before the car was converted. The emission rates were only nine percent of those of a gas powered vehicle from that same era, making the converted vehicle a win-win situation.

Due to various issues throughout history, however, Wouk's hybrid car was once again pushed back in terms of major distribution. Despite the fact that the technology to operate a vehicle on less gasoline and oil has existed in a practical sense as early as 1901, the hybrid car is just now receiving a significant marketing push.

Oil companies with vested interests in local governments, governments with vested interests in oil companies, and all sorts of other political aspects are often blamed for the lack of marketing and information spread about the hybrid cars. With environmental concerns reaching an all-time high, however, it seems that more people than ever will begin to look at the story of hybrid cars and start to do what they can to save money on gas and what they can do to save emissions.