The Porsche Mixte hybrid car

The Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid is a series hybrid vehicle like the current Opel Ampera and Chevrolet Volt. A small petrol engine with constant speed drives a power generator that charges a number of batteries. The batteries in turn supply electric power to 4 electric motors mounted on the 4 wheels and drive the car (see picture). A real hybrid car and moreover with 4 wheel drive! Because no drive shaft, gearbox, clutch or chain are needed, a very simple construction is created. Due to the large battery pack, the car has an empty weight of 1500 kg.

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Ferdinand Porsche’s innovative design of the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid became a success and brought him fame as a designer. His concept, some 300 Lohner-Porsche’s have been built, became an important example for the further development of both the electric and the hybrid electric car. Lohner-Porsche’s concept was even studied by Boeing and NASA for the final design of the Lunar Rover Vehicle in the Apollo 15 project in 1971.

In 1905 Henri Pieper, arms manufacturer in Belgium, developed a parallel hybrid car with a drive concept as we know it from the Toyota Prius. He applied for a patent for this in 1909. The patent describes the application of an electric motor, batteries, a petrol engine and some electrical circuits. When driving at cruising speed with the petrol engine, the electric motor acts as a dynamo and the batteries are charged. When accelerating or taking a hill, the dynamo acts as an electric motor, providing extra power to the petrol engine.

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Pieper was a brilliant inventor, but the timing of his invention was very unfortunate. In 1908, a year before his patent was granted, Henri Ford built his Ford Model T, accessible to the middle class for a price. By using the conveyor belt from 1913 the Ford became even cheaper. This was the breakthrough of the petrol engine for the automobile. Steam and electric vehicles gradually disappeared from the streets at the end of the 1920s, as did the hybrid electric car. The hybrid electric car became far too expensive compared to the petrol car. Moreover, at that time global warming, air pollution and high oil prices were not threats. It is therefore remarkable that the technical solutions of today’s hybrid electric cars can be found in Henri Pieper’s drawings.

In America around 1910, despite the growing popularity of the petrol car, there were still some manufacturers who dared to produce hybrid electric vehicles. An example of this is the manufacturer ‘Woods Motor Vehicle Company’, which launched the Woods Dual Power in 1915.

The car has a 12 hp 4 cylinder petrol engine with an extended electric motor. At speeds up to 30 km/h, only the electric motor does its job. There was no need to crank up the petrol engine and you drove off silently from a standstill. Above 30 km/h, the petrol engine is automatically switched on, which can bring the car up to its maximum speed of 56 km/h. This means that the car can be driven from a standstill. When driving on the petrol engine, the electric motor acts as a dynamo which charges the batteries.

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Up to 1918, 600 cars were built. The Woods Dual Power was not a commercial success. It was too expensive and drove too slowly compared to the conventional petrol car. In addition, the maintenance of the hybrid propulsion was expensive.

In the period after the Second World War until 1990 there have been several developments in the technology of both hybrid and electric cars. Such as the regeneration of electrical energy during braking for charging the batteries. Electronic circuits were also used that provided for intelligent cooperation between the petrol engine and the electric motor in the event that more or less power was required. These developments were mainly for small-scale experiments and were encouraged by governments in America, Europe and Japan with the aim of making fossil fuel cars more economical and reducing harmful emissions.

The real breakthrough of the hybrid electric car came in the late 1990s. To respond to the public and political desire to reduce fuel consumption (CO2 emissions) and pollutant emissions from combustion engine cars, the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota Motor Corporation decided in 1997 to launch a gasoline-electric hybrid car on the market.

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