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Many believe that the hybrid car is a new concept brought about by the need to improve fuel efficiency now that we know the oil will actually run out at some point. However hybrid power has been around since very soon after the electric motor found practical use.

With early motoring still up against many inefficiencies with technology, the benefits of a hybrid arguably offered more benefits then than they do today.

How hybrid systems work

The term hybrid is merely a description of two forms coming together to create one solution. Therefore there is no one answer to how hybrid systems works, as the combinations are vast.

Most commonly in the automotive industry, there are two key approaches; both using a combination of the internal combustion engine and the electric motor. The advantages of this combination means that you can utilise the efficiency and instant power of the electric motor, but also utilise the instant fuelling of the internal combustion engine.

Commonly these two forms of power are either combined in tandem, with electric motor and engine operating independently or in collaboration; or they work with the electric motor creating drive whilst being charged by the engine.

The former systems gives more flexibility with the ability to increase power by using both systems in combination, or become more efficient by switching purely to electric.

The second method however, retains a constant and more efficient approach with the internal combustions engine able to operate at maximum efficiently without heavy load, and the electric motor able to transfer that power more efficiently to the drive.

Automotive use of hybrids

1900 Lohner PorscheThe first car to be introduced with a hybrid system was in 1899 by the Belgian car manufacturer Pieper. This used the internal combustion engine to both charge the batteries and help power the vehicle at speed. Ferdinand Porsche then developed a petrol-electric car in 1900, which was powered by the electric motors whilst being charged by a petrol engine.

By 1917 the Woods Dual Power car was developed. This American car used a 1,560cc four cylinder petrol engine, combined with an electric motor. It would run solely on battery power up to 10mph, at which point the engine would cut in. It even used the engine and energy created from braking to charge the batteries. The Toyota Prius doesn’t look so pioneering now, does it!?

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