06-16-2016

A Brief History of Hybrid Cars

The first production hybrid cars have been in the works for around 10 years; prior to this, many have been designed, scrapped, and re-designed. Some of these hybrid designs go back up to one hundred years. Although there are some variations in hybrids, most hybrid vehicles use two types of power sources. Generally, the majority are called gas-electric hybrids. These cars use a combination of an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, which receives its power from batteries. Beginning in the late 1800s, the London Electric Cab Company began equipping their cabs with 40-cell batteries and 3-horsepower electric motors. They did pretty well for the times, considering they ran their cars for a good 50 miles before needing to stop for recharging.

Within two years, Pope Manufacturing Company produced their first 500 electric cars and put them up for sale. Electric cars were becoming the foundation on which the hybrid would be built.

It's debatable as to who really did create the first hybrid car. So many different individuals and companies were all trying to design and market the first hybrid car that there has become a blurred line as to who or what company really did make the first hybrid car. Even so, a few people are credited with inventing the technologies that we use in modern hybrids.

Early Hybrid Cars And Porche

In Europe, Porche® had worked on a vehicle that started out with an entirely electric motor. This vehicle debuted in a Paris vehicle exposition in 1900. Eventually, a gasoline motor was added to help recharge the batteries. The electric motor gave the car more power than an entirely gasoline powered motor. Current gasoline electric hybrid vehicles use some of the technology developed by Porche and placed in his vehicle named the Mixte.

Of course, everybody recognizes the name Porsche in today's car market, probably never realizing that he was so involved with the initial designs of hybrid vehicles. Porsche's design was a Series Hybrid System that is very much like what's in use today. The difference between his design and others were batteries being used as the primary source of power. This vehicle relied on the internal combustion engine as the secondary power supply, making its design the reverse of what had previously been used in vehicles up until this time. The Series Hybrid System by Porsche went on to be used in the Chevy Volt that you may be familiar with.

Early Hybrid Cars And H. Piper

In 1906 H, Piper, an American born engineer filed a patent on a gasoline electric hybrid. According to the patent application, the electric motor allowed the vehicle to accelerate faster than other vehicles at that time, going from 0 to 25 miles per hour in 10 seconds. Unfortunately for Piper, by the time his patent application went through, gasoline powered vehicles were powerful enough to accelerate at similar rates without the benefit of the electric motor.

The first hybrid car designed by Henri Pieper was based on an electric motor with a gasoline engine, like so many designers are using today. Many consider Pieper somewhat of a visionary with his early beginnings of the Parallel Hybrid. Today, Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius use a similar foundation based on the Parallel Hybrid principles.

The theory of a Parallel Hybrid is incredibly ingenious and may even now be expanded upon in the years to come. The parallel structure works with a gasoline engine and an electric motor providing power to the wheels. If the engine doesn't require help from the motor, then the electric motor will run as a generator helping recharge the batteries. If and when the car needs an additional power boost, the electric motor will work in unison with the gas-powered engine providing power to the wheels.

Both Toyota and Honda's hybrids are designed using the Parallel Hybrid System, whereas Porsche's now use the Series Parallel System.

More Early Hybrid Car Attempts

In 1917, an auto company based in Chicago named Woods Motor Company developed a vehicle they named the Woods Dual Power. This vehicle combined a 4-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor. Though the electric motor could only power the vehicle to 20 miles per hour, the addition of the gasoline part of the motor meant the Woods Dual Power could reach speeds of 35 miles per hour. Unfortunately, though the Dual Power could travel faster, it was a failure as it was less powerful as well as more costly than its gasoline powered competition. Hybrid car history might have ended there if other factors had not come into play.

The First Hybrid Car Hits The Production Lines

Still barely off the drawing board, many early hybrids hit the production lines in the late sixties and early seventies. In the mid-1960's, the United States Congress strongly suggested a move from gasoline powered vehicles to gasoline electric vehicles to help reduce air pollution. With this suggestion, several American automakers started working on gasoline electric hybrid vehicles. The first prototypes of these vehicles started appearing in showrooms in 1967 - 68.

In 1967, General Motors® released the GM 512®. In experimental stages, the 512 ran on electricity at low speeds and relied on a gasoline powered motor at higher speeds. Unfortunately, this vehicle was capable of achieving 40 mph and never really made it past the experimental stage.

As gasoline prices increased in the mid to late 1970's, there was renewed interest in gasoline electric hybrids for other reasons. The Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development and Demonstration Act of 1976 added federal funding to the money spent by American automakers in developing electric, gasoline electric and other hybrid vehicles. In the late 1970's, General Motors stated that they could be producing gasoline electric vehicles by the mid 1980's.

A man named Victor Wouk transformed a traditional powered Buick Skylark into a gasoline electric hybrid vehicle. With his work, the first truly hybrid vehicle was produced. The Environmental Protection Agency went ahead and thoroughly tested Wouk's experiment and later asserted that it did, indeed, meet the clean air act guidelines. However, for some reason the work was stopped after that test. There are many theories, including that Wouk ran out of money or that the EPA rejected his vehicle for unknown reasons.

In 1979, Mother Earth News reported that a man named Dave Arthurs in Springdale, AR was able to transform his Opal GT into a hybrid vehicle. He used a four hundred-amp electric motor, a lawnmower engine, and a number of six volt batteries. The editors at Mother Earth News tested the setup on their own and were able to achieve approximately 75 miles per gallon. After the article was published, approximately 60 thousand people wrote to Mother Earth News for the plans for this hybrid vehicle.

These early hybrid cars weren't able to achieve the quality emission and fuel ratings that they do today. They were an important step to focusing on environmental and economic requirements for the future. Early hybrids gave us a beginning from which technology could grow and develop, providing the essentials for consumers in the future.

Toyota was actually one of the first to release the modern version of gasoline electric hybrids. The Toyota Prius was first released in Japan in 1997. The Honda Insight was first released in the United States in 2000. The 2-seater Honda Insight with manual transmission received ratings of 53 MPG and automatic ratings of 47. The EPA smog score was 2 for manual transmission and 6 for automatic, with the highest achievable score being a 10.

Following close on their heels was Toyota bringing out their Prius in the US which later received the Car of the Year award from Motor Trend Magazine in 2004.

There are many consumers showing an interest in hybrids today; however, there are still lots of consumers waiting for a few more tweaks. As proof of how fast modern hybrids are improving consider the following two examples where an older hybrid is compared to a newer one:

First, The 2005 Ford Escape 5-seater car recorded 27-29 MPG with a combination score. The combined average for the EPA was a score of 7 out of a possible 10. Within 5 yrs, the 2010 Ford Fusion for 2010, another 5-seater passenger car, rated a combined score of 39 MPG and 47 MPG based on electric only. The combined average EPA was a little higher than the Escape with a rating of 8.

Second, a 5-seater Toyota Prius for 2001 had a combined average MPG of 41 with a combined average EPA smog score of 3! While the 5-seater 2010 Toyota Prius outdid itself with a combined average MPG of 50 as opposed to 41 previously. The combined average score of the EPA went from a 3 in 2001 to a huge gain of 8 in 2010.

Overall, both of these car companies have seen big improvements. It took a hundred years of designing, perseverance, and a lot of fortitude, but quality hybrid cars have finally hit the production lines, and consumers are buying and driving many of them today!

Hybrid Car History in Europe

Strangely enough, though hybrid car vehicles started in the early 2000s in the United States, hybrid cars were not widely offered or sold in Europe until 2004. Automakers felt that since hybrid cars had started to become popular in the United States that it might make economic sense to offer them in Europe. However, only 9,000 hybrid vehicles were sold in Europe in 2004. Since this number was almost as high as the number of hybrid vehicles sold in the United States in 2000, hybrid car makers continued to offer their cars for sale in Europe.

Additionally, these automakers started showing their cars in the Geneva car shows each year. This brought attention to the hybrid vehicles that were offered on the market. Some consumers switched to hybrid vehicles because of the improved emissions over diesel vehicles. Since the slow start, Europe, especially Western Europe is the fastest growing market for hybrid vehicles in the world.

Incentives Affecting Hybrid Car Sales

Though hybrid cars tend to be more expensive than gasoline powered vehicles, some countries offer tax incentives for the purchase of hybrid cars. For example, in 2007, Sweden started offering a 10,000 kronor tax break to all individuals who purchased cars using green technologies. The tax incentive included the purchase of hybrid vehicles as well as vehicles using alternative fuels. Even without tax incentives offered by some countries, consumers save money when they switch from traditional gasoline powered vehicles or even traditional diesel powered vehicles to hybrid cars.

The sales history of hybrid cars in Europe has been a story of success for Toyota. In 2005, Europeans purchased approximately 7.5% of the hybrids sold globally. Of those numbers, more than 90% of the cars were made by Toyota. However, this does not mean that other hybrid vehicle manufacturers do not have a chance at picking up the market share. Since there were few other hybrid vehicles for sale in 2005, there were not many choices for those who decided to purchase a hybrid. Since Ford and other automakers have increased their production of hybrid vehicles, market share for these other automakers has increased as well.

Many people know that oil reserves are a finite resource and that gas prices will continue to climb. The purchase of a hybrid vehicle can help people feel like they are contributing to the solution instead of ignoring the problem When hybrid owners save money as well, they feel better all around about their choice.

Growth History of Hybrid Cars in Europe

Though the number of hybrid cars sold in 2007 was low, it was still a 2,000% increase from the number of hybrid cars sold in 2002. Though the price of gasoline electric hybrids is approximately 15% more expensive than non-hybrid vehicles, there is an approximate 50% savings on the annual congestion tax.

In Europe, the price of gasoline is lower than the price of diesel. Since gasoline electric hybrids get fuel economy that is comparable to the fuel economy for diesel vehicles, those who purchase gasoline electric hybrids save money in their fuel prices. Even those who choose who purchase diesel hybrids get approximately 20% better fuel economy than in a traditional diesel vehicle. This allows for even more savings over the course of a year.

Unfortunately, the price of diesel hybrids is too high for some consumers. This severely limits the number of diesel hybrid cars that are purchased in Europe.

Limiting Factors in Hybrid Car History Sales

The history of hybrid cars in Europe has shown us that Europeans are as interested in green technologies as other countries are. However, there are some factors that should be taken into consideration. These factors limit the number of hybrid vehicles sold in this viable market.

According to many sources, there simply are not enough different hybrid vehicles available in European markets. Though the number of hybrid sales has increased overall, according to a JD Power & Associates presentation on the AWBriefing at http://awbriefing.com/presentations/20080129_al_bedwell.pdf, there are few auto manufacturers who offer hybrid vehicles in Europe. Additionally, it has stated that there are markets that are not covered with the current availability of hybrid vehicles.

Diesel and Hybrid Car Sales

The hybrid car history in sales has shown that though diesel vehicles may challenge hybrid vehicles in fuel economy, many still prefer to purchase a hybrid car. The General Motors Europe president has suggested that electric hybrid vehicle sales will continue to increase in Europe. He stated that diesel engines will eventually become more expensive to make when automakers have to meet more stringent emissions standards. It has also thought that the price of hybrid vehicles will decline as more of them are produced. The cost increase of diesel vehicles combined with the cost decrease in hybrid vehicles might create a scenario where hybrid vehicles become the vehicle of choice all over the world.

Some think that diesel cars will be the car of choice in Europe. Because many European countries do not have the stringent EPA emissions standards required in the United States, European diesel vehicles tend to have more power and get better fuel economy than an equivalent American model. Even automakers known for their hybrid vehicles are still producing diesel vehicles for the European market.

History Hybrid Car Information

In Europe, Porche® had worked on a vehicle that started out with an entirely electric motor. This vehicle debuted in a Paris vehicle exposition in 1900. Eventually, a gasoline motor was added to help recharge the batteries. The electric motor gave the car more power than an entirely gasoline powered motor. Current gasoline electric hybrid vehicles use some of the technology developed by Porche and placed in his vehicle named the Mixte.

In 1906 H, Piper, an American born engineer filed a patent on a gasoline electric hybrid. According to the patent application, the electric motor allowed the vehicle to accelerate faster than other vehicles at that time, going from 0 to 25 miles per hour in 10 seconds. Unfortunately for Piper, by the time his patent application went through, gasoline powered vehicles were powerful enough to accelerate at similar rates without the benefit of the electric motor.

In 1917, an auto company based in Chicago named Woods Motor Company developed a vehicle they named the Woods Dual Power. This vehicle combined a 4-cylinder gasoline engine with an electric motor. Though the electric motor could only power the vehicle to 20 miles per hour, the addition of the gasoline part of the motor meant the Woods Dual Power could reach speeds of 35 miles per hour. Unfortunately, though the Dual Power could travel faster, it was a failure as it was less powerful as well as more costly than its gasoline powered competition. Hybrid car history might have ended there if other factors had not come into play.

Mid-20th Century Hybrid Car History

In the mid-1960's, the United States Congress strongly suggested a move from gasoline powered vehicles to gasoline electric vehicles to help reduce air pollution. With this suggestion, several American automakers started working on gasoline electric hybrid vehicles. The first prototypes of these vehicles started appearing in showrooms in 1967 - 68.

In 1967, General Motors® released the GM 512®. In experimental stages, the 512 ran on electricity at low speeds and relied on a gasoline powered motor at higher speeds. Unfortunately, this vehicle was capable of achieving 40 mph and never really made it past the experimental stage.

As gasoline prices increased in the mid to late 1970's, there was renewed interest in gasoline electric hybrids for other reasons. The Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development and Demonstration Act of 1976 added federal funding to the money spent by American automakers in developing electric, gasoline electric and other hybrid vehicles. In the late 1970's, General Motors stated that they could be producing gasoline electric vehicles by the mid 1980's.

A man named Victor Wouk transformed a traditional powered Buick Skylark into a gasoline electric hybrid vehicle. With his work, the first truly hybrid vehicle was produced. The Environmental Protection Agency went ahead and thoroughly tested Wouk's experiment and later asserted that it did, indeed, meet the clean air act guidelines. However, for some reason the work was stopped after that test. There are many theories, including that Wouk ran out of money or that the EPA rejected his vehicle for unknown reasons.

In 1979, Mother Earth News reported that a man named Dave Arthurs in Springdale, AR was able to transform his Opal GT into a hybrid vehicle. He used a four hundred-amp electric motor, a lawnmower engine, and a number of six volt batteries. The editors at Mother Earth News tested the setup on their own and were able to achieve approximately 75 miles per gallon. After the article was published, approximately 60 thousand people wrote to Mother Earth News for the plans for this hybrid vehicle.

More Recent Hybrid Car History

In 1993, a government initiative named the Global Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles as announced. Several years after the partnership was announced, they released plans for three different vehicles that would get approximately 80 miles per gallon. All three of these vehicles were hybrids. Oddly enough, Toyota was left out of this partnership. They decided to work on their own vehicle prototypes to get at least 50 percent better fuel economy.

Toyota was actually one of the first to release the modern version of gasoline electric hybrids. The Toyota Prius was first released in Japan in 1997. The Honda Insight was first released in the United States in 2000, with the Prius following a few months later.

Work to Be Done

It might seem that the history of hybrid cars should end there. After all, hybrid cars have been released and are now considered mainstream vehicles. However, there are some other issues that need to be worked on before these vehicles become truly viable alternatives to gasoline powered engines.

Hybrid electric vehicles are more expensive than their gasoline powered counterparts. Since many people cannot afford the premium that is charged for hybrid vehicles, they do not sell as well as the gasoline powered equivalents. It is hoped that the price premium will decrease as these vehicles are more widely produced, but they are also more expensive to produce.

Another drawback to gasoline electric hybrids is the cost to replace the battery. It can cost up to $8,000 to replace the vehicle battery once it has worn down, and each battery only lasts approximately 100,000 miles. Work needs to be done to develop a method of storage and disposal that will not harm the environment, especially since these vehicles are touted as more environmentally friendly than gasoline powered vehicles.

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