Not everybody knows that the first hybrid car was built in 1900. Yes, you've read the correct year. Lots of people think that the hybrid car is a quite new idea, made possible by the japanese with their Toyota Prius. I've nothing against the Prius, but the world should recognize and know who's the man to whom this idea belongs: Dr.Ing. Ferdinand Porsche.
"Prof. Ferdinand Porsche was busy designing and developing his cars as early as 1896. The first fruit of his endeavors was an electric vehicle known as the Lohner-Porsche. It was driven by steered wheel-hub motors, and it caused a sensation at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900. This was soon followed by an even more impressive example of Prof. Porsche innovative spirit. A racing car boasting four wheel-hub electric motors became the world's first all-wheel drive passenger car and marked the automotive engineering debut of four-wheel brakes. No less visionary was Prof. Porsche's next idea; in 1900 he combined his battery-powered wheel hub drive with a petrol engine, thus creating the serial hybrid drive principle."
Ferdinand refined the prototype during the following years, improving the weight (the lithium batteries didn't exist at that time) and increasing the power.
"To save weight and create room for a petrol engine, Prof. Porsche swapped the original 74-cell accumulator in his electromobiles for a smaller battery with only 44 cells. In the middle of the vehicle he installed two water-cooled 3.5 PS (2.6 kW) DeDion Bouton petrol engines -- driving two generators to create electricity -- each producing 2.5 hp (1.84 kW). Both engines operated independently, each delivering 20 amperes with a voltage of 90 volts. The electricity generated by the dynamos initially flowed to the wheel-hub motors, with the surplus power being sent on to the batteries. An added bonus was that it was also possible to use the generators as electric starter motors for the petrol engines by reversing the direction of rotation [ at the time the engines were operated by hand ]."
The hybrid car that Ferdinand developed was able to reach a top speed of 35km/h (22mph) with a range of 200km (124miles). It was the year 1901.
Ferdinand Porsche isn't only the creator of the famous Porsche 356 or the much more famous Käfer (i.e. Beetle in UK or Maggiolino in Italy). Porsche was a visionary, a man who could use his geniality and technical capacities to create wonderful cars, that also today bear his name and are little pieces of art. Unfortunately Ferdinand never saw the 911, the most iconic car of the brand, because it was created and presented in 1963 by his son Ferry Porsche while Ferdinand died in 1951.