While they have surged in popularity in recent years, the history of hybrid cars extends over a century. Toyota's Prius has its place in popular culture, but you may be surprised to learn how long inventors have been exploring the possibilities of hybrid vehicles.
The History of Hybrid Cars
Hybrid cars have been around as long as gasoline powered cars.
The Electric Car
Inventors thought of powering cars with electricity as far back as 1893, when Robert Anderson built the very first electric vehicle. Over the years, other inventors built upon this idea, improving on battery capacity. Still, the cars couldn't travel very fast or very far. By the late 1800s, electric powered cabs were in use in London.
First Hybrid Car
The Lohner-Porsche, star of the 1900 Paris Auto Show, is said to be the first hybrid car. It was developed by Jacob Lohner, a coach builder, and Ferdinand Porsche, an engineer, and their inspiration was to reduce the pollution from gasoline powered vehicles. The initial design was for an all-electric vehicle, but it was later adapted as the first hybrid to address battery capacity issues.
Mass Production and Decline
Following this invention, thousands of hybrid cars were produced by the Krieger company. However, Ford's efficient assembly line and well as the invention of the self-starting gasoline engine resulted in a decline of production of hybrid vehicles twenty years later. For the next fifty years, hybrid cars were nearly forgotten until pollution became so bad that in 1966 Congress recommended electric vehicles as a solution.
Scientists began tinkering with hybrid cars again. They were especially inspired by the oil embargo in 1973 which made the price of gas soar. The US government became more involved in the testing process. Both General Electric and Toyota built hybrids. However, most of the focus was on electric vehicles. This momentum continued throughout the 80s with lukewarm reception.
In 1993, the Clinton Administration announced the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV). Billions of dollars were invested into the development of three hybrid vehicles.
The Toyota Prius was introduced in Japan in 1997 and in the US in 2001. Along with the Prius, which is undoubtedly the most popular hybrid model, two other well-known hybrids are the Honda Insight, which was introduced in 1999, and the Honda Civic Hybrid. Ford introduced the first hybrid SUV, the Ford Escape. Many other car manufacturers have developed their own version of the hybrid, including Volvo, Volkswagen, Nissan and Lexus. Here are some examples of modern hybrid cars: