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Who Invented the Hybrid Car?

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Surprisingly, the question of who really invented the hybrid car can be a lot tougher to answer than one would originally expect. The problem, apparently, is that many very intelligent individuals along the way have played a key role in developing some of the technology that was eventually used to make hybrid cars as we today recognize them. Thus, it’s difficult to narrow down definitively who really invented them without taking a quick ride down memory lane.

Interestingly enough, and much to the surprise of many, hybrid vehicles are actually older than the fuel-powered vehicles that became popular beginning in the 19th century.

To fully understand the history of hybrid vehicles, though, you have to go back to 1665 when Ferdinand Verbiest -- a Jesuit priest and astronomer -- first designed a four-wheeled self-moving wagon. This wagon, amazingly enough, was powered strictly by steam. While the fact this technology was in fact designed is a widely accepted, it was never discovered whether or not Verbiest actually ended up being able to build part of the vehicle at any time.

Rather, it wouldn’t be until 1769 when the first steam-powered vehicle was actually introduced to the world. Created by Nicholas Cugnot, this vehicle was able to travel 6 miles per hour - a feat that Cugnot could not improve on regardless of how hard he tried. Many more researchers and educated minds attempted to improve on this machinery, however, for a very long period of time, it was all to no avail.

Then in 1839, Robert Anderson developed the first ever electric-powered car. Despite countless questions and concerns regarding how this car would be able to charge the inner battery, the accomplishment itself in building this type of vehicle was still noted and very much admired.

Later in 1870, Sir David Solomon developed an electric-powered vehicle that would feature a light motor and extremely heavy battery. And while speed was reduced significantly as a result of the extra weight, this development too proved to be key in the evolution process of these types of automobiles.

The biggest innovation as it applies to hybrid cars, though, would come in the 20th century.

In 1962, Motorola cars founder Russell Feldman worked with an electrical engineer named Victor Wouk in an effort to solve the increasingly prevailing dilemma of excess pollution caused by car emissions. In 1974, thanks to some help from his friend Charlie Rosen, Wouk was able to build the prototype for a vehicle that put together the capacity of fuel-powered engines with the low emission rate of an electric-powered car.

And from that, the hybrid was born.

This site follows the emergence, application and development of transportation innovation. Reference to manufacturers, makes and models, and other automotive-related businesses are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by FutureCars.com.

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