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NEW YORK - Victor Wouk, an electrical engineer and entrepreneur who developed the first full-size version of the modern hybrid car, has died. He was 86.

Wouk died of cancer at his New York City home on May 19, his son Jordan told the Los Angeles Times for a story in Sunday's editions.

Described as the father of modern hybrid automobile programs, Wouk held more than 10 patents, most of them related to hybrid and electric vehicles. In the early 1970s, he formed his own company, Petro-Electric Motors, to develop a hybrid vehicle for the federal government.

Would said his work was spurred by the Clean Air Act, passed by Congress in 1970, which called for the development of a car engine that could eliminate 90 percent of the pollutants then being emitted by engines.

Wouk and friends invested about $300,000 into the project and he and a partner, Charles Rosen, modified a 1972 Buick Skylark with a rotary engine and an electric motor that supplied peak power when needed.

"We built the first full-powered, full sized hybrid vehicle," Wouk said in a 2004 interview. "Nobody had taken a full-sized passenger car and made a hybrid out of it."

The car proved effective in independent lab tests. It met the strictest emission standards, got 30 miles to a gallon of gas and its top speed was 85 mph. Nevertheless, it failed the Environmental Protection Agency's tests.

Petro-Electric folded in the 1970s and Wouk became a consultant and remained a booster for hybrid cars. He believed Toyota's 1997 introduction of a gasoline-electric car was affirmation of his life's work, said son Jordan.

Besides Jordan, Wouk is survived his wife of 63 years, Joy; his brother, the novelist Herman Wouk; another son, Jonathan, and a grandson.
 

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I don't really understand why this event took a month to become a national media news story, but at least it's there now. Innovators and inventors seem to get lost in the pages of history all too often.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... 900D53.DTL

Just imagine how impressive it was to have a car achieving 30mpg in the 70's?

It's just a bit disappointing to see that he basically had the idea of a hybrid working (probably without anywhere near level of software available today ... unless he had a little X86 hobby computer in the back seat...) but it wasn't picked up by a big car maker.

Cheers,
 

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I think it's fair to say we haven't yet seen an energy storage system compact and light enough to "solve" the hybrid puzzle. The management systems in the Toyota products are impressive (from maintaining a state of charge to cooling the batteries and keeping the engine warm) but they're the kind of problem-solving that doesn't solve the underlying problem (energy management) they just alleviate the symptoms and work around the shortcomings.

Warranties are just a service agreement -- even if we had to go to the dealer with every, say, 5000 mile service, to have the water topped up and the dead or dying lead-acid cells replaced, it wouldn't be particularly significant to the consumer -- the marketing could cloud those issues into "serviced at the same intervals as the conventional gasoline engine" and, for all intents, who'd worry?

Aside from weight reduction and aerodynamics (the two things that contribute most to the performance of the Prius, in my humble opinion) the "wall" right now is energy management and nobody seems to have a solution.

In the Prius, it seems the regnerative braking works well (hence better mpg in the city than on the highway) so one might start seeing hybrid drivers making long journeys at an average of 35mph in the slow lane and continually braking and accelerating to the beat of imaginery stop lights ... :)


I think the next thing will be for the car to do a better job of "understanding" the road:

* learning complex algorithms for energy management
-- regeneration from coasting and heavy braking
-- regeneration from cornering forces
-- energy capture from heat differentials (reverse of a/c)
-- taking advantage of head- and tail- winds
-- "best rate of climb" and "best decent"

* intelligent operation and driver aids
-- navigation and route selection based on topography, wind and traffic data
-- cruise control based on the navigation system data

And it seems within our grasp with available technology today for the current generation of "traffic data" navigation systems to become bidirectional, allowing each car to report its progress:
-- individual vehicles reporting traffic flow to a collective

In return, the collective system adjusts dynamically:
-- synchronization of traffic lights to improve traffic flow and ease congestion
-- traffic speed advisory signs
-- advised speed data to individual vehicles
 

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But we will, and soon.

ymmv said:
I think it's fair to say we haven't yet seen an energy storage system compact and light enough to "solve" the hybrid puzzle.
But we will and soon.

There are too many hybrid cars either built or going to be built pretty soon. It's now economically competitive to make a better mousetrap. Too many manufacturers are planning hybrids. Now that there's a market, someone will make it lighter, more powerful and with a longer life.

Then someone else will make one that holds twice as much, lasts twice as long with half the weight....at half the price.

Remember what happened with personal computers?

In 1984 I had a 512k Mac without a harddrive so the OS had to be on the disk with the program.

I now have a laptop with a color flat screen, 60 gig harddrive and the optical drive can read and burn both CDs and DVDs. Less than 20 years.

Now that there's an incentive, they'll build it. If and when I need to replace the battery on my 2005 Prius they'll be an incredible improvement over what I have now. The only question will be if I want to replace them for the mpg increase, or trade in for a current model that is even better. Someone will buy my used Prius because for them, it will still be better than what they have been driving.
 

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Victor Wouk, an obvious engineering genius, and his brother Herman Wouk one of Amrerica's great writers. One VERY impressive set of genes.
 
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