Mention hybrid vehicles and one immediately thinks of Toyota and the 1997 Prius, the first commercially successful passenger car of this type. There are, however, earlier examples and today we look at an unlikely pioneer, Briggs & Stratton.
Outside the US, the name Briggs & Stratton is most often associated with lawnmower engines of modest capacities and power outputs. This understates considerably the size and global reach of the company. Founded in 1908, Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest manufacturer of small-capacity internal combustion engines for agricultural, industrial, marine and recreational applications.
Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the company manufactures around ten million engines annually in plants located in North and South America, Europe and Australia, and sells in over 100 countries worldwide.
In the late 1970’s, following the fuel crisis earlier in that decade, Briggs & Stratton began thinking about the viability of hybrid power. It recognised that most road vehicles of that era were highly inefficient: their large capacity internal combustion engines were required to produce enough power and torque to accelerate them up to the speed limit on highways but, thereafter, only a fraction of the power output was required to Continue reading “American Pioneer”
“Studillac” said Leiter. “Studebaker with a Cadillac engine. Special transmission and brakes and rear axle. Conversion job. A small firm near New York turns them out. Only a few, but they’re a damn sight better sports car than those Corvettes and Thunderbirds. And you couldn’t have anything better than this body. Designed by that Frenchman, Raymond Loewy. Best designer in the world. But it’s a bit too advanced for the American market. Studebaker’s never got enough credit for this body. Too unconventional. Like the car.”Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – The Studillac”
Was GM’s EV ever a contender? And is it a Parallel Hybrid? This is a revised version of a post published last October following the Opel Ampera’s withdrawal from sale.
We laugh at giants at our peril. General Motors has made many mistakes in its existence, but it has scored lots of hits, and it’s still around. So, when they started taking EVs seriously, for the second time around after the controversial EV1 of the mid 90s, we needed to take GM seriously.
However giants take the small people for granted at their peril. GM’s very size means that it has little affection or goodwill going for it, so it will often be harshly judged. When the Chevrolet Volt, whose technology underlies the Ampera, first appeared critics were quick to accuse it of not being a pure EV, claiming that it was no more that a smoke-and-mirrors version of a Prius. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – GM Pushes The Definition”
I had a Swiss Army Knife once, but I never used it and I don’t know where it is now. I’m willing to concede that it is probably a useful thing to have about your person and, were I marooned on an iceberg with polar bears ready to attack, I’m sure I’d curse the fact that I hadn’t hung on to that knife. Generally, though, I find the idea of multi-function devices problematic. First, all your eggs are in the one basket so, when one thing goes wrong, everything else is compromised. Second, instead of doing one thing adequately, they often do two, or more, things badly. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – The Swiss Army Knife Syndrome”
This is also conveniently part of my Looking Back series.
We can begin by looking at this little film by Doug de Muro. I have to say I like the chap’s presentation mode. It is very cheerful in a way the Americans do very well. It avoids Hammond’s cheeky chappy style and Clarkson’s tucked in chin. The Honda Insight and Toyota Prius both went on sale in 2000, showcasing the idea that you could mix an electric and petrol system to Continue reading “Theme: Hybrids – 2000 Honda Insight”
Cars no longer differ from country to country, but once they had definite national characteristics. What happened when two nations met – collaboration, collision or confusion?
We now seem to have reached a consensus that the type of car most should be is ‘Germanic’, being lazy shorthand for something efficient, hard riding, fast enough and, usually, a bit clinical. Some sports cars remain, possibly, more traditionally ‘Italianate’ in spirit, being nervy, noisy and involving to drive. Nowadays, though, car making is truly a global industry where an Italian car maker might produce a model exclusively in Poland, and where the designers and engineers come from scores of different nations. Nearly fifty years ago this wasn’t the case.
Bristol and Jensen had American engine power as did France’s Facel. The Citroen SM had Italian power. A small Swiss firm, Monteverdi, chose Italian styling and American engines for its small batches of supercars.
In 1967, Peter Monteverdi produced a supercar, the 375 S, shown at that year’s Frankfurt Motor Show. Frua created the styling and a now-defunct carrosserie called Stahlbau Muttenz provided a steel tubular space frame. The name came from the power output of the 7.2 litre Chrysler engine, 375 h.p. Just eleven examples were made so it’s a bit of a rare beast. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – Monteverdi’s Swiss-Italian-American Confection”
These days the general understanding of hybrid is a vehicle with a dual power source. A Chevrolet Spark is one example. I’d rather work my way back to Pandas.
The current interpretation of hybrid overshadows other interpretations. There has in recent decades been a temptation for manufacturers to take a bit of one idea and a bit of another to make a third one. How the recipe is blended is where the interest lies. If you take a 4-wheel drive, off-road vehicle and make it more civilised you end up with a Range Rover. If you aren’t very good with adding the civilisation part you get a G-wagon or Jeep Grand Cherokee. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – Ruminations”
In today’s motoring world the term ‘hybrid’ has been hi-jacked for a certain type of vehicle. It is a fair enough description, but this month, without ignoring the sterling work of Toyota and others, we would also like to reclaim the word on a wider scale.
There have always been hybrids in motoring. It is well known that Ferdinand Porsche created a petrol/electric hybrid at the start of the 20th Century – a clever idea which we more or less forgot about for 90 or more years. On a more general level, the motor industry was mixing and matching from the start, taking it to a mammoth scale the moment Fiat put an airship engine into one of its production chassis in 1910. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – Introduction”