100 Years of Hybrid History

Often considered the latest in modern automotive technology, the concept of using electricity to bolster fuel engines has been around for more than a century. It just took awhile to catch on.

Published: 07-Mar-2005

This year will see the widest variety of gasoline/electric hybrid vehicles ever offered to the North American public. You'll be able to buy anything from a compact Honda Insight two-seater to a husky full-sized Chevrolet Silverado pickup. In between, there are two sizes of sedan and several SUVs. In short, hybrids are now part of the automotive mainstream.

Buyers of hybrids usually see themselves as bold pioneers of a radical powertrain trend, but as savvy automotive historians will point out, few vehicle advancements outside the realm of pure electronics are truly new. Many features of the modern automobile, from multi-cam, multi-valve engines to disc brakes and cast aluminum wheels, were around more than half a century ago and longer. And so it is with hybrid vehicles, according to research published by Toyota, which has a number of hybrids on the market for 2005.

Just short of 100 years ago, according to Toyota's research, a Mr. Piper applied for a patent to cover a vehicle powertrain that would use electric motors to bolster the power of a conventional gasoline engine.

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