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A six-wheel hybrid auto from 30 years ago made by whom?
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Dan
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 10:34 pm    Post subject: A six-wheel hybrid auto from 30 years ago made by whom? Reply with quote

Is this old technology or new technology? A prototype hybrid built by Briggs & Stratton in the late 70's is not all that different from what is available today. It is interesting to see what things they were trying to use that are still being used today (and often being thought of as forward thinking). Oh, the reason for six wheels (and three axles) was to handle the weight of all the batteries. They hadn't figured out lightweight batteries back then.

From The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online. Take a look at the link to see some sidebars that weren't copied to this post.

Plugged in early: Briggs had a hybrid in '70s
Car had six wheels, got 100 miles per gallon

By RICK BARRETT
rbarrett@journalsentinel.com
Posted: March 9, 2008

Wauwatosa - Long before the Toyota Prius was even imagined, a modest gasoline-electric automobile from Briggs & Stratton Co. prowled the streets of Milwaukee and was touted as a model for cars of the future.

It was an unusual car with six wheels, almost 1,000 pounds of batteries, and a garden-tractor engine coupled with an electric motor.

Under ideal conditions, the plug-in hybrid developed in the late 1970s could get more than 100 miles per gallon.

It could travel about 30 miles on the electric motor alone, before having to be recharged overnight with a standard power outlet.

For an Earth Day event, Briggs engineers hauled the car to Washington, D.C., and showed lawmakers that it could run on domestically produced ethanol.

In 1980, the company wrote: "We are all seeing our personal mobility threatened by rising petroleum prices and dwindling resources. The fundamental appeal of electric cars is that they allow us to use energy sources other than petroleum on the road."

That statement sounds eerily familiar today as gas prices soar and automakers rush to bring hybrid and all-electric vehicles to market.

"President Bush came out a couple of years ago and said the nation needed a plug-in electric hybrid. Well, we wanted one of those nearly 30 years ago," said Bob Mitchell, now retired from Briggs & Stratton and a former manager of advanced research for the company.

The Briggs hybrid wasn't a speedster - its top speed was only about 70 miles per hour - but it could climb steep hills and keep up with traffic on congested city streets.

A local production
The fiberglass body was designed by Brooks Stevens Associates, a Milwaukee firm behind Excalibur luxury cars, the Jeep station wagon and the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc., now involved in designing hybrids, assisted Briggs with the batteries and electric motor.

The hybrid could carry two adults, two children, some groceries, and the dozen batteries needed to power the electric motor.

Briggs spent three years developing the car, which it called a "rolling test bed" for energy conservation.

The hybrid technology included a parallel drive system that allowed it to run on either gasoline, electric power or both with the flip of a switch.

The extra pair of rear wheels, and an additional axle, were needed to handle the weight of the lead-acid batteries, normally used for electric boat motors.

Powering the car was an 18-horsepower, air-cooled Briggs engine that could just as easily have powered a garden tractor. Additional muscle came from an 8-horsepower electric motor from a company that also makes treadmill motors.

While practical for use on city streets, the hybrid struggled on the highway.

"If there was any wind or hills, you were lucky to go 50 miles per hour," Mitchell said. "Acceleration to highway speed was terrible."

Briggs dabbled in the automobile business in the early 1900s when Henry Ford launched mass production of the Model-T.

It developed the hybrid in the late 1970s to show the benefits of coupling a small gasoline engine with an electric motor.

The company had no intentions of becoming a car manufacturer. Rather, it wanted to sell engines to other companies developing alternative vehicles.

"The idea was that cars really didn't need hundreds of horsepower to go down the road," Mitchell said. "If you were willing to drive at a moderate speed, say 40 miles per hour without a lot of acceleration, then perhaps 12 horsepower would be enough."

Reused idea
Like many other modern ideas, the hybrid wasn't entirely new.

In the early 1900s, several companies combined a gasoline engine and an electric motor in one vehicle. But the efforts failed because of technical limitations and what seemed like an inexhaustible supply of petroleum.

The Briggs hybrid was hampered by shortcomings in battery technology. Today's lithium batteries, for example, have about four times more power than the batteries Briggs used 30 years ago.

Mostly, hybrids of the past were too expensive to be mass produced.

"I know that hybrids are popular, but they are still not a great idea in terms of a business model," said Joe Wiesenfelder with Cars.com, a Web site for car shoppers.

Today's vehicles are at the threshold of huge technological breakthroughs, including the use of hydrogen fuel cells.

"The concepts were known many years ago. We just didn't know how to implement them at a reasonable cost in high volumes," said David Cole, director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Briggs' experimental car is now parked in the company museum. The batteries, still in the trunk, haven't been charged in years.

The company spent about $300,000 developing its hybrid and did not consider it a wasted effort.

Briggs' parallel drive system was an early forerunner to the Prius. Also, the car used an early form of regenerative braking, in which energy captured from slowing down is used to charge the car's batteries.

"That was really ahead of its time," Mitchell said.

Briggs gained some bragging rights in engine development and energy conservation.

"The car got a lot of attention everywhere it went," said Bill Latus, a Briggs engineer who worked on the project.

"One of my friends, with a Prius, made a comment to me about working for a lawnmower-engine company that doesn't have the best image when it comes to air emissions," Latus said.

"But the engines that we make today are much cleaner. And I told him that I drove a hybrid 20 years before he even thought about it."

[b:a970de293f]Dan[/b:a970de293f]
2001 Rainforest Green LX (164,795 miles)--Minnie (The vacationator)
2006 Honda Civic EX with NAVI and 5sp MT (102,338 miles, new block at 89K) (Dan's daily driver)--Blue Car
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vkc
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2008 1:08 pm    Post subject: Re: A six-wheel hybrid auto from 30 years ago made by whom? Reply with quote

Interesting. If we take a step back tho, none of this is really new. Electric engines came before combustible ones (1800's). And I think there was even steam powered cars back then (too heavy, slow, etc).

The decision maker if the technology is adopted for mass production is it can be made at a competitive price and people are willing to buy it.

What is surprising is who made this hybrid.

Then: '79 Plymouth Horizon, '88 VW Fox Wagon, '92 VW Jetta GL (DW), '96 VW Golf GL (DW), '97 Jetta GLX - Green, '03 MPV ES - Blue Mica (DW); '15 Hyundai Elantra GT - Titanium Gray Metallic (DW)
Now: '18 Hyundai Tucson - Silver (DW), '10 Honda Civic Si - Polished Metal Metallic blake
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 15, 2008 4:50 pm    Post subject: Re: A six-wheel hybrid auto from 30 years ago made by whom? Reply with quote

Yes--100 years ago there were electric, steam, and gasoline engine cars. In some respects steam cars had a lot more going for them than gas cars, but they took a while to warm up to the point where you could drive them (the car doesn't move until the water boils!) so gasoline had a big advantage there. Throw in a self starter for the gasoline engine--instead of crank starting it--and that is why we use the external combustion engine of today. The steam engine was essentially an external combustion engine.
[b:a970de293f]Dan[/b:a970de293f]
2001 Rainforest Green LX (164,795 miles)--Minnie (The vacationator)
2006 Honda Civic EX with NAVI and 5sp MT (102,338 miles, new block at 89K) (Dan's daily driver)--Blue Car
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vkc
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 4:48 pm    Post subject: Re: A six-wheel hybrid auto from 30 years ago made by whom? Reply with quote

Dan wrote:
The steam engine was essentially an external combustion engine.
Never thought of it that way but you're 100% correct.
Then: '79 Plymouth Horizon, '88 VW Fox Wagon, '92 VW Jetta GL (DW), '96 VW Golf GL (DW), '97 Jetta GLX - Green, '03 MPV ES - Blue Mica (DW); '15 Hyundai Elantra GT - Titanium Gray Metallic (DW)
Now: '18 Hyundai Tucson - Silver (DW), '10 Honda Civic Si - Polished Metal Metallic blake
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