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Where Did Hybrids Come From?


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The idea of combining various modes of propulsion is as old as the idea of the transport itself. Only recently, however, has it become viable and popular.

The concept of combining propulsion systems is not new at all. Early vessels, such as the Viking long ships, used a combination of oars and sails to provide propulsion. Whenever one method of power was inadequate to provide what was required, the other could be used. It was also possible to combine them both for maximum efficiency. This idea occurred to the very earliest automobile makers. Pioneer automaker, Ferdinand Porsche built a Hybrid car called “the Mixte" in 1901 which was very similar in concept to the modern Hybrids. It won an early speed race in Europe with Porsche driving it himself.

In 1918, a company called Woods Motor Vehicle Company was making electric cars in the United States. They introduced a Hybrid called the Dual Power. This vehicle used an electric motor whenever it was going under 25 miles an hour, but when it increased its speed over this level, a four cylinder internal combustion gasoline engine cut in to bring it up to its top speed of 35 miles per hour. A total of 600 Dual Powers were produced in 1918.

The technology that has led to the production model Hybrid cars of today was mostly developed in the 1960's and 1970's. These innovations included the regenerative breaking and the Hybrid power trains. A man named Victor Wouk is often called the “Godfather of the Hybrid car" for his work with the development of the Hybrid power trains. One prototype was installed in the 1972 Buick Skylark as part of the 1970 Federal Clean Car Program. The Environmental Protection Agency put an end to this program in 1976 fueling a long and ongoing debate over a deliberate government conspiracy to suppress the technology in the interests of the Gasoline Companies.

The Clinton Administration began the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles in 1993. The PNGV was a partnership between the major automakers and various government agencies to engineer and produce a cleaner and more fuel efficient automobile. The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius were the first two production Hybrid models. They were first released in the early 1990's and have been constantly improved ever since. By 2003, there were over 43,000 Hybrid Cars registered in the United States.

The last few years have brought the Hybrid car into the mainstream of the American automobile industry. More and more models are being introduced including several models of Sports Utility Vehicles. The Federal Tax credit for the purchase of Hybrid vehicles has certainly helped their popularity. As gasoline prices continue to climb and environmental and political concerns of petroleum production continue to plague us, the Hybrid car stands poised to become the vehicle of the future.

Aazdak Alisimio writes hybrid car articles for


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