Learn about Life in the 1920s

Introduction of Hybrid Fuel-electric Car in 1929

A combination gasoline and electric car with no clutch or gears to shift, and capable of quick pick-up and fast speed on hills has just been delivered to Col. E. H. K. Green at his South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, estate. It is the first of its kind and is the result of combined experimental work by engineers and builders. Says Guy Bartlett in a press bulletin issued by the General Electric Company:

"In external appearance it looks just like any gasoline-driven ear. The difference is in the mechanism under the floor boards and the controls at the driver's seat. There are but two foot pedals, one to the left for the brake and one to the right for the gas. The clutch-pedal and the gear-shift rod are eliminated. The emergency brake and the starting button are the same as in other cars.

"In addition to the absence of the clutch and gear shift, other features ot the new car are that it is impossible to stall the engine without actually shutting off the ignition, and it is impossible to start with a jerk. Even tho the accelerator pedal is jammed down to the floor board, the pick-up will be gradual and smooth because of the automatic electric equipment. There is also an outstanding safety feature, for the driver can keep both hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road at all times after the car has once started to move. When the car is brought to a stop, the idling of the gas-engine is not sufficient to cause the generator to produce enough electricity to turn the motor. All that is required to get the car under way again is to remove your foot from the brake pedal and step on the gas. The more gas you give it, the faster the speed.


"This particular car is geared to make forty miles an hour. However, by changing the gear ratio on the rear axle, it can be made to operate at speeds comparative with gas-driven cars, according to engineers of the General Electric Company.

"The electric generator is mounted directly to the fly-wheel housing of the gas-engine, the generator armature revolving at exactly the same speed that the engine turns over. A few inches back of the generator, or approximately under the front seat, is the electric motor, connected by cable to the generator and coupled by a short drive shaft to the rear axle. As the generator is speeded up, more electricity is fed to the motor, and as the motor picks up so does the speed of the car.

"As the motor operates at high speed, the gear ratio on the rear axle was made a worm drive of from 8 1/4 to 1, instead of the standard, 4 7/16 to 1 gear reduction for cars of this type. To reverse the car, a small lever is moved, shifting the current from the generator and reversing the operation of the motor.

"On his arrival at his South Dartmouth estate, Colonel Green for the first time in his life, drove a gasoline-operated automobile. Altho he now has twenty-five cars of various types and makes, he has never been able to manipulate the clutch-pedal and gear-shift, and heretofore has used a small electric storage battery car in his daily drives about his estate and airport.

"So pleased was Colonel Green with the car that he has ordered a second with a limousine body. and is planning a third, of the touring-car type."

Source: Literary Digest - October 5, 1929



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