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Peter Skofic sent us this photo, which was taken by photographer Peter Lampic in 1910 and shows an unknown car on its journey from Ljubljana to Kamnik (some 25 km). The owner of the car who seats on the rear seat was certain Mr Smid. Could anybody recognize this car?
The Hague, end of December: While many Dutchmen were stacking europallets for the big NYE-bonfire at the Scheveningen-beach, we used the chance to escape the drizzling rain and made a short trip to the Louwman-Collection. Walking through the museum, you can realize, that the number of steam- or electric-powered cars is surprisingly high. But between the Stanley, Baker or Detroit-Electric, displayed next to a modern Prius cutaway, a lovely car hit my eye. With its open bonnet, showing a 4-cylindre gasoline engine, I at first had no clue, where to find the link to the cars around it and so I had to learn some astounding information about the one hundred years old "WOODS DUAL POWER". This pretty car, with its friendly looks and big windows is a pioneer in hybrid-technology. It is fitted with a 12hp four-cylindre gasoline-, as well, as with an electric-engine. Even if the hybrid-car was not new at this time (LaCuadra and Lohner for example built their hybrids nearly 20 years before this Woods was delivered), the milestone realised with the Dual Power is, that this car is a full-hybrid. Up to 30km/h, the car is driven electrical and for higher speeds up to 56km/h, the power of the petrol-engine is added via a magnetic clutch. The gasoline engine can also be used as a range extender as it´s charging the batteries while running. And as if this was not enough, the Woods used a technology, first invented for electric rack railways some years before: the regenerative brakes. By that, the battery was charged via level ground or downhill braking/ coasting. The braking efficiency of the engine was suitable for speeds over 10km/h (we remember, it was 1917 and not every driver would break for a chicken those days), so the conventional brake system with rear drums had only to be used at around walking speed or emergency brakes.
Such a modern car, built a hundert years ago. But why was this technique rejected by automobile companies for such a long time? I can´t remember even one hybrid production car between 1918, when Woods stopped production, and the 1997 Prius!? Woods wanted to combine the advantages of electric and gasoline powered cars. Gasoline engines for example were rough, loud and had to be cranked. But they had more power than the elctrical engines, that were silent and smoothly, easy to start, but had a short range. A perfect combination, with the additional advantage, that no gearbox was needed (with the disadvantage, that driving backwards was only possible in electric mode) but also a very expensive and complex one. For a price of more than $2.500 in 1917, a customer expected a car that was at least faster than a Tin-Lizzy, sold for $345. And the handycaps of gasoline engines minimized during those years. Electric starters for example got common, gasoline engines were refined, their reliability increased, nobody cared about exhaust gases or petrol-prices and last but not least, the service for such a complex technique as the hybrid-system was very expensive. So the Woods Motor Vehicle Company closed its doors in 1918. Only two (or three?) of the fabulous Dual Power seem to have survived: The one displayed in the Louwman-Collection and one is shown in the Ford-Museum at Dearborn.
Words and photos by Hubertus Hansmann
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