The beginning of the car Toyota Prius

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It was the Toyota Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid car. Initially only available in Japan, the Prius became available in an improved version in the US and Europe in 2001. Initially sales were slow, but from 2003 when the second generation Prius appeared (type XW20 see photo), the model became more popular in both the US and Europe.

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Shortly after, other manufacturers had also introduced a hybrid car to the market, including the Honda Insight. HEV’s get a clear position in the market and until now there are more and more manufacturers that provide their models with hybrid propulsion. The development of the all-electric car and the plug-in hybrid car, a HEV in which the battery can be charged with a plug, has also taken place.

An important negative factor of the HEV is the relatively high purchase price that is caused by the high production and development costs. The government’s incentives are therefore a major support for the sales of HEVs. When purchasing a hybrid car, one receives a purchase premium or the car is (partially) exempt from purchase or use tax, as in the US, Canada, Japan and a number of countries in Europe, including the Netherlands.

Since 2008, due to economic decline, unstable oil prices and the environmental issue of global climate change, there has been a great need for new innovative developments in the Western world.

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In general, it is considered that the greenhouse gas CO2, caused by human activities such as the combustion of coal and gas in power stations and the use of petrol and diesel for cars, plays an important role in global climate change. In addition, people are also aware that the availability of fossil fuels on our planet (such as oil, gas and coal) is not infinite.

It is difficult to predict future developments to attract the economy and solve the climate problem. How long will the conventional car with petrol and diesel engine continue to exist? To what extent will the hybrid car and the electric car replace the conventional car? Will there be a whole new development? Today’s society cannot be compared to that of the early 1900s, when the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid was driving around. In the coming decades it will be determined which direction will be taken for the automobile but also for mobility in general. However, history has taught us that major changes are possible, as is the step from the horse-drawn carriage to the automobile of today.

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Land transport is as old as history. First, pack animals were used, then the invention of the wheel, which made it possible to use carts, both for transporting goods and passengers. The luxury version of the cart became the carriage. This was gradually improved over the years, first with suspension systems and later with the addition of brakes.

The discovery of steam power at the beginning of the 17th century led to the invention of several machines, including ventilation pumps used in English mines. Many inventors tried to use that steam power to propel themselves.

The first to do so, as far as we know, was Père Verbiest, a Belgian Jesuit who lived as a missionary in China at the end of the 17th century. He built a scale model of a steam-powered cart. The Emperor found this extremely amusing, but the project was never carried out. It was not until the end of the 18th century that a full-scale steam-powered utility vehicle was built, the Cugnot tugboat, made in France by an officer from Lorraine. The French Revolution interrupted these experiments. This was followed by the following steam vehicles in England, where they were used with some success by driver-mechanics.

Unfortunately the high maintenance costs and the numerous accidents caused further experiments to be stopped. At the same time, the use of rail was increasing and steam power seemed to be more efficient there than for road vehicles. Steam continued to attract many inventors throughout the 19th century, but few practical results were achieved. Another source of energy that was the subject of various experiments during the 19th century was carbon dioxide and the Belgian Etienne Lenoir built a stationary engine that ran on this fuel in Paris just before 1860. The Lenoir engines enjoyed some success in competition with small stationary steam engines.

Then Lenoir started to adapt one of his gas engines to a vehicle on the road. He failed to connect his vehicle to a fixed gas reservoir and then replaced carbon gas with paraffin gas. 

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