Exploring the History of the Hybrid Car
In a world that is increasingly embracing environmentally conscious and cost-efficient products, hybrid cars have been making news over the past several years. The recent boost in celebrity interest and the allure of saving money amid rising gas prices has made the concept of a hybrid car much more interesting than before.
Although a man by the name of Victor Wouk (also referred to as the Godfather of the Hybrid) has been given credit with creating working hybrid prototypes in the 1970s, the first record of hybrid technology actually comes from an early French design in 1907. A company called L'Energie Electro-Mecanique of Suresnes, manufactured the AL, which provided a combination of gas and electric power that ran at 24 HP. Unfortunately, this particular design did not last very long.
It wasn't until the 1960s rolled around that the next example in hybrid technology was created. The XP-883 was the brainchild of General Motors, who introduced this plug-in hybrid car as an experiment. Designed to accommodate commuters, the car was rather small with a body fashioned from fiberglass. At that time, the design was quite similar to the Chevrolet Vega or Ford Pinto, which yet to exist. A two-cylinder engine, offering a DC electric motor that used power from six 12-volt batteries located between the rear wheels, powered the two-door hatchback. It was able to reach speeds of 60 mph in less than 30 seconds. As it was experimental at the time, it never hit the market.
During the 70s, the Towns Microdot was created in 1972 as a concept design for a small, economical answer to the town car. The vehicle first gained attention in 1976 with its petrol and electric energy combination, which was meant to transport three people in a side-by-side manner throughout the city for short excursions. The interest and exploration in hybrid cars really took off during the 1990s, when we first see models, such as the Toyota Prius come to life. In 1989, the Audi 100 Duo was established, followed by the Audi 80 Duo in 1994.
In 1996, the American-bred, AC Propulsion tzero was produced as an attractive hand-made electric sports car. The space frame was constructed from reinforced steel and the body was a fiberglass dream. It also featured unique items, such as an innovative braking system that eased to prevent sliding. The car also recharged its batteries once the throttle was released, regaining energy in a slow manner. The vehicle needed to be driven hard using the accelerator to the pedal to reboot the batteries. Although this beauty was on the cutting-edge of technology, the cost to reproduce such a gem was quite steep, prompting the stop of production.
In 1997, the public was introduced to the first commercially marketed hybrid car, which became a mass produced wonder. The Toyota Prius first went on sale in Japan, soon becoming a household name throughout the world by 2001. By the end of 2003, the company had shipped out 160,000 units to satisfy interest in Japan, Europe, and the United States. Winning numerous awards, this specimen continues to satisfy environmentally conscious individuals with newer designs and features.
1997 also saw the rise of the Audi A4 Duo, which marked the first time a European manufacturer was able to mass produce a hybrid car. This newer version of the Duo was now outfitted with a 66 kW 1.9-litre TDI-Engine and a 21 kW electric motor.
The early 2000s arrived and so did a variety of makes and models from a wide range of international companies. Japan offered numerous options, such as the 2000 Toyota Estima (offered only to the Japanese market), the 2001 Toyota Prius (to the rest of the world), the 2002 Mazda Demio (a 4-wheel drive car exclusive to the Japanese market) and the 2002 Dyna Diesel Hybrid (a Japanese-only commodity as well). Elsewhere, the Honda Insight emerged in 2000. The 2002 New Flyer became an example of a "diesel-electric hybrid articulated bus." The 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid was also popular. In 2003, the Renault Kangoo offered plug-in hybrid electric car capabilities. 2003 also brought the Toyota Alphard Hybrid and the Suzuki Twin.
Throughout the years, more and more hybrid choices have developed, but many fail to compare to the demand of the Prius. Some of the newer designs offer a less expensive option, and also push the envelope on better fuel efficiency. Many well-known car makes and models are now offering hybrid options. For instance, the next time you shop for your next car, you may encounter the likes of the Honda Accord Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, Lexus Hybrid, Saturn VUE Green Line, and the Toyota Camry Hybrid.