If a car uses two or more power sources to function, it is often labeled as a hybrid car. People of modern times consider a hybrid car to be one which has an internal combustion engine and an electric motor. The engine is powered by gasoline fuel and the electric motor is powered by the battery. Hybrid cars have only been a mainstream phenomenon for the last 20 years. Before the 21st century, the general public thought they were something out of science fiction. But the concept of the hybrid vehicle has actually been around for quite a long time. In fact, some of the very first automobile prototypes consisted of gasoline and electricity.
Turn of the 20th Century
In 1898, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche became the first person to build a car which featured an electric motor and internal combustion engine. This engine supplied energy to a generator which would then power 4 electric motors. Each electric motor existed in a separate wheel hub. This vehicle could only drive about 40 miles before it would give out. Dr. Porsche originally wanted the vehicle to be entirely electrical, but he needed a way to recharge the batteries in the vehicle. That was his motivating factor in including the engine too.
Around the same time, a car manufacturer from Belgium named Pieper introduced a car that featured a gasoline engine with 3.5 horsepower and an electric motor. The purpose of this motor was to assist the vehicle whenever it tried driving up a steep road or incline. Shortly after that, an American invented a hybrid propulsion system which utilized the power of both the gasoline engine and electric motor. This vehicle was able to drive up to 25 miles per hour.
From 1905 to 1965
Things were looking great for hybrid cars in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Unfortunately, these hybrid cars were very expensive and were beyond the budgets of most people. This inspired Henry Ford to come along and produce more affordable cars for people. Rather than implementing the electric motor and generator, he built his cars to primarily depend on the internal combustion engine for their power needs. Other car manufacturers continued to try and make hybrids, but they could not compete with Ford. He was able to produce very affordable cars at massive rates. This quickly led to the end of hybrid car manufacturing as other automakers simply gave up and eliminated the electric motors from their vehicles too.
Since 1965, the United States Congress has been introducing legislation to reduce the growing problem of air pollution. They encouraged automakers to experiment with electric vehicles, such as hybrids, which could serve this purpose. General Motors developed a hybrid prototype which had a small gasoline engine and electric motor. The engine allowed the vehicle to move at fast speeds while the electric motor could power the vehicle at lower speeds.
The 1970s and 1980s
Hybrid car manufacturing really took off in the 1970s and 1980s. Entrepreneurs and big corporations were experimenting with this technology and trying to produce the perfect fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle. Toyota was one of these automakers which found success at this. In 1976, they had their first hybrid vehicle being driven on the streets. During these two decades, hybrid vehicles could be seen a lot in Asian and European countries. Toyota and Audi were marketing their hybrids like crazy in these nations.
The 1990s – Current
Americans can thank Honda for bringing hybrid technology to the United States. They released the Honda Insight in 1999 to the American market. The quick success of the Insight led to the Toyota Prius being released in the United States just one year later. In the 2000s and beyond, hybrids have only gotten better and more diverse. There are so many hybrid vehicle models and options on the market nowadays. There are even plug-in hybrids where the owner can recharge their battery at home by plugging it into an outlet. The hybrid technology is only going to keep improving from there.