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The beginning of the Ford model T

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, at a price accessible to the middle class. 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.

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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.

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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It became the Toyota Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car. Initially only available in Japan, the Prius became available in the U.S. and Europe in an improved version in 2001. Initially sales were slow, but from 2003 when the second generation Prius appeared (type XW20 see photo), the model became more popular in both the US and Europe.

Shortly after, other manufacturers had also introduced a hybrid car to the market, including the Honda Insight. HEV’s get a clear position in the market and until now there are more and more manufacturers that provide their models with hybrid propulsion. The development of the all-electric car and the plug-in hybrid car, a HEV in which the battery can be charged with a plug, has also taken place.

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An important negative factor of the HEV is the relatively high purchase price that is caused by the high production and development costs. The government’s incentives are therefore a major support for the sales of HEVs. When purchasing a hybrid car, one receives a purchase premium or the car is (partially) exempt from purchase or use tax, as in the US, Canada, Japan and a number of countries in Europe, including the Netherlands.

Since 2008, due to economic decline, unstable oil prices and the environmental issue of global climate change, there has been a great need for new innovative developments in the Western world.

In general, it is considered that the greenhouse gas CO2, caused by human activities such as the combustion of coal and gas in power stations and the use of petrol and diesel for cars, plays an important role in global climate change. In addition, people are also aware that the availability of fossil fuels on our planet (such as oil, gas and coal) is not infinite.

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