Jay Leno just released a video of him driving what is probably the USA’s first hybrid automobile. Back in 1980, Briggs & Stratton wanted to demonstrate that cruising at the national speed limit of 55 mph could be done in a much more efficient manner. They did so by constructing a vehicle using Ford Pinto and Volkswagen Scirocco parts, along with custom panels created by Brooks Stevens and his son, and using twelve 6-volt batteries in series to send 72 volts to an electric motor along with an 18-horsepower air-cooled, 694 cc flat-two cylinder engine.
Jay interviews Craig Claerbout, an Engineering Technician at Briggs & Stratton who worked on the car and took it to shows in the early 1980s. Jay makes mention of some similarities to Panhard as far as the gas-powered portion of the engine and layout is concerned. It’s interesting that this car is pre-Toyota Prius and that much of what we see in hybrid cars today was pioneered by Briggs & Stratton in the USA!
Fresh from a re-commission from sitting in the Briggs & Stratton Museum in Milwaukee Wisconsin, they take the 6-wheeler on the road. Check out the video here:
What was the world’s first hybrid car you ask? Answer: the Lohner-Porsche, produced from 1900 – 1905.