Many of you already know that when the automobile first debuted on the scene, electric vehicles outnumber gas-powered cars by more than a two-to-one margin. By the 1920s though, gasoline was firmly established was the fuel of choice. But this was a time before automatic transmissions, and a disabled millionaire inadvertently led to the development of one of America’s first hybrid vehicles that made the case that hybrids could be better than conventional gas cars.
The millionaire’s name was Colonel Edward Green, and as a boy he had lost one of his legs. This prevented him from operating the clutch mechanism that cars of this day and age required. Yup, before automatic transmissions, ALL cars used a manual shifter. This prevented Green from driving, at least until he financed a project that would become the first plug-in hybrid.
With $1 million in financing, Green used his considerable pull as a shareholder in General Electric to pursue a hybrid vehicle that required no clutch mechanism. The result was a 1929 Stearns-Knight M 6-80 cabriolet fitted with a GE-designed hybrid system. The gas engine turned a generator, which powered electric motors driving the cabriolet forward. There was no transmission, nor was there a clutch to manually shift. Green was so happy he ordered two more of the hybrids, a broughman and a sedan. The carbrio was destroyed, the broughman is being restored, and the sedan resides at the JWR Auto Museum in Frackville, PA.
Now some of you are no doubt ready to point out that Ferdinand Porsche built the first hybrid vehicle, and that numerous companies offered and sold hybrid vehicles through 1920. But my point here is that by the time Colonel Green came along, gas cars dominated the marketplace. Even so, he was able to spearhead the development of a vehicle that was in many ways superior to the gas jalopies of the day.
Not only did this hybrid setup allow Green to drive himself, but the operation was also much smoother than the herky-jerky cars of the time, many of which leapt forward upon ignition. It’s definitely a cool piece of green car history, ironically pursued by a man named Green who had no intention of reducing pollution; he just wanted to drive.
That is something I think many of us can understand.
Source: Hemmings Auto Blog