Pop quiz: When was the first hybrid car built?
“C, of course! It was 2004! 2004 Toyota Prius. Easy!”
Nope. The Prius was actually released in Japan in 1997. But that’s still not the right answer. It was 1899. Nope. That wasn’t a typo.
Yes, in 1899, Jacob Lohner, an Austrian carriage builder, wanted to create a car that wasn’t as clunky, smelly, or noisy as the gas-powered cars of the late 1800s. He asked Ferdinand Porsche, a young Austrian engineer, to help him design an electric carriage. Porsche, a name most car lovers instantly recognize, then went on to design the Volkswagen, and the Porsche sports car has been a brand that moved through his family for generations. But in his post-graduation days from the Vienna Technical College, Porsche conceived the Lohner-Porsche Elektromobil, a battery-operated car with an in-wheel motor. Initially the vehicle was purely electric, but Porsche added a gas-powered engine, making the Elektromobil the first hybrid car.
Interestingly enough, electric- or steam-powered cars date back even before the Elektromobil. The predecessor to the Elektromobil, a very crude electric carriage car, was designed in 1839, and steam-powered motor cars were developed as early as 1769. But with the technological advances in manufacturing car parts, the lowered price of petrol, and Henry Ford’s efforts in the automobile industry, as well as the invention of the electric motor, electric cars and hybrids all but faded from the market by the 1920s. However, the idea of an electric-powered vehicle sparked up again in the 1950s and 1960s as automobile industries became more environmentally-conscious. Partnered with the ever-rising prices of gas, car companies and government programs began to invest in researching the viability of a more fuel-efficient vehicle. Several vehicles were produced, but it wasn’t until 1997 with the Toyota Prius in Japan that the hybrid took on the popularity it has today — by the time 10 years passed, Toyota sold over one million Priuses worldwide.
So for those out there who chose “A”, good job — we’ll give you half credit. And if you ever want to talk hybrids with the experts, come out to your local Northeast Ohio Rad Air Complete Car Care & Tire Center! Our auto repair technicians are trained and certified in the repair of electric and hybrid cars.