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Who designed and built the first hybrid car?


Early Hybrid Vehicle Production
Although electric cars were popular at the turn of the 20th century, they didn't come to the forefront of the automobile market until that century's end.
Although electric cars were popular at the turn of the 20th century, they didn't come to the forefront of the automobile market until that century's end.
Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images

A poll was taken at the first National Automobile Show in New York City in 1900 to see what type of vehicle the attendees preferred. The top answer was electric vehicles, followed closely by steam-powered cars. Internal combustion engines came in last [Source: Hybrid Cars]. Thousands of hybrid vehicles were being produced around this time, but that type of car production began to slow down when Henry Ford introduced the automobile assembly line [Source: Hybrid Cars].

Ford's assembly line produced lightweight and inexpensive cars that appealed to the general public [Source: Hybrid Cars]. In 1913, Ford sold 182,809 Model Ts, while sales of cars that didn't run exclusively on gasoline began drop steadily [Source: Hybrid Cars].

It wasn't until the late 1960s and early 1970s that automobile companies and scientists began experimenting with hybrid vehicles again [Source: Hybrid Cars]. When an oil embargo hit the United States in the early 1970s, the Department of Energy began testing several types of alternative car technologies. One type was a parallel hybrid car created by Volkswagen called the VW Taxi, which could switch from an internal combustion engine powered by gasoline to electric power [Source: Hybrid Cars].

Over the next several decades, car companies experimented with alternative technologies. In 1999, Honda sold the first mass-market hybrid in the United States, called the Insight [Source: Hybrid Cars]. One year later, Toyota introduced the Prius, which won the Car of the Year award from Motor Trend Magazine in 2004. Although these two vehicles use the parallel hybrid system, Porsche's series parallel system is still used in hybrids today.

It took almost one hundred years for automakers to mass-produce hybrid vehicles in America; meanwhile, battery technology, engine efficiency and electrical systems have improved, allowing even greater opportunity for the future hybrid vehicles.

For more information about hybrid cars and how they work, go on to the next page.


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