The hybrid electric car

Before giving examples, there is a brief explanation of what is meant by a hybrid electric car. A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is a type of hybrid vehicle that combines the propulsion of the vehicle by means of a conventional combustion engine (usually a petrol engine) with that of an electric motor. There is a large variety of HEV types and the way in which both drives work together is also very varied.

Initially, from the year 1901, the first HEVs were intended to combine the ease of electric driving (not cranking the engine manually and increasing the range) with the already common use of the petrol engine. These first applications of HEV’s were only of short duration, about 20 years. It was only in the late 1990s that HEVs were used by car manufacturers to meet American and European environmental requirements and to comply with the limits for fuel consumption and thus CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions.

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In 1901, Ferdinand Porsche developed the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid, the world’s first petrol electric car, built by the coach manufacturer Lohner Werke in Vienna, Austria. The car was derived from the 1899 Lohner Electric Chaise, a fully electric vehicle powered by 2 electric motors placed on both front wheels.

The Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid is a series hybrid vehicle like the current Opel Ampera and Chevrolet Volt. A small petrol engine with constant speed drives a power generator that charges a number of batteries. The batteries in turn supply electric power to 4 electric motors mounted on the 4 wheels and drive the car (see picture). A real hybrid car and moreover with 4 wheel drive! Because no drive shaft, gearbox, clutch or chain are needed, a very simple construction is created. Due to the large battery pack, the car has an empty weight of 1500 kg.

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Ferdinand Porsche’s innovative design of the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid became a success and brought him fame as a designer. His concept, some 300 Lohner-Porsche’s have been built, became an important example for the further development of both the electric and the hybrid electric car. Lohner-Porsche’s concept was even studied by Boeing and NASA for the final design of the Lunar Rover Vehicle in the Apollo 15 project in 1971.

In 1905 Henri Pieper, arms manufacturer in Belgium, developed a parallel hybrid car with a drive concept as we know it from the Toyota Prius. He applied for a patent for this in 1909. The patent describes the application of an electric motor, batteries, a petrol engine and some electrical circuits. When driving at cruising speed with the petrol engine, the electric motor acts as a dynamo and the batteries are charged. When accelerating or taking a hill, the dynamo acts as an electric motor, providing extra power to the petrol engine.

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Pieper was a brilliant inventor, but the timing of his invention was very unfortunate. In 1908, a year before his patent was granted, Henri Ford built his Ford Model T, accessible to the middle class for a price. By using the conveyor belt from 1913 the Ford became even cheaper. This was the breakthrough of the petrol engine for the automobile. Steam and electric vehicles gradually disappeared from the streets at the end of the 1920s, as did the hybrid electric car. The hybrid electric car became far too expensive compared to the petrol car. Moreover, at that time global warming, air pollution and high oil prices were not threats. It is therefore remarkable that the technical solutions of today’s hybrid electric cars can be found in Henri Pieper’s drawings.

In America around 1910, despite the growing popularity of the petrol car, there were still some manufacturers who dared to produce hybrid electric vehicles. An example of this is the manufacturer ‘Woods Motor Vehicle Company’, which launched the Woods Dual Power in 1915.

The car has a 12 hp 4 cylinder petrol engine with an extended electric motor. At speeds up to 30 km/h, only the electric motor does its job. There was no need to crank up the petrol engine and you drove off silently from a standstill. Above 30 km/h, the petrol engine is automatically switched on, which can bring the car up to its maximum speed of 56 km/h. This means that the car can be driven from a standstill. When driving on the petrol engine, the electric motor acts as a dynamo which charges the batteries.

Up to 1918, 600 cars were built. The Woods Dual Power was not a commercial success. It was too expensive and drove too slowly compared to the conventional petrol car. In addition, the maintenance of the hybrid drive system was

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