By Sam Boni
“Hybridization is the path to the future,” asserted Dave Hermance recently. He is the executive engineer for environmental engineering at the Toyota Technical Center, USA. As an interim solution, hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) are in the news more and more every day. Hybrids surely will be in our future, but do they already have a past?
A hybrid electric vehicle combines the best features of the familiar internal combustion engine (ICE) and the forever reliable electric motor. But just a few years ago a survey of 14,000 people found that only 14% of North Americans were aware of this technology. With today’s relentless advertising to “go green”, most everyone is at least aware of the hybrid’s existence by now.
Apropos history: I learned early during my automotive education that a young Ferdinand Porsche worked in ‘mixed propulsion’ more than one hundred years ago. In 1899 (another source quotes 1897) the young engineer was hired by the Austrian Lohner Carriage Company, when owner Jakob wanted to diversify into the new horse-less carriages. Porsche used a gasoline engine running at a constant speed to turn a dynamo, or generator, which charged a number of accumulators, or batteries. The current from these early batteries –plates in wooden boxes- powered hub motors, modified to form part of the front wheels. This system eliminated the need for a gearbox, drive shafts or chain, and a clutch. Without the mechanical friction losses it had an amazing efficiency of 83%, as reported by a Thomas Scholz in his thesis. Continue Reading →