World’s first hybrid car is Armstrong Phaeton 1896. Developed by Heri. E. Day, and produced by the Armstrong Company for Roger Mechanical Carriage Company, it has a gasoline 6.5-liter, two-cylinder engine and dynamo with a flywheel connected to the battery. Dinamo (and regenerative braking) is used to charge the battery, which provides the necessary energy to start the engine. This system predates a self-starter Cadillac’s solution by impressive 16 years.
In addition to being helped to charge the batteries and start the car, the dynamo is also used instead of candles, to provided electricity for electric lamps of the car. Dej also gave Armstrong a semi-automatic transmission. With three forward gears and a reverse gear, the driver swaps cogs with a selector on the steering column. When changing gears, an electric clutch automatically disengages and reengages, negating the need of a clutch pedal.
The Armstrong will be going up for auction at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance today, where it is expected to fetch somewhere between $175,000 and $275,000. What is impressive is that this wonderful car in perfect running order.
Armstrong has made just one example of this model. Although regularly used, it remained in Armstrong’s Bridgeport facility until 1963, when one worker moved it due to flooding in the garage. From there, a man named Dennis David passed it on to a collection of Connecticut-made automobiles. Then, the vehicle ended up in the hands of collectors from the UK under the name Robin Louder, who restored the car and brought it to the operating state, before selling it to the current owner.
Interestingly, Armstrong’s hybrid engine was too strong for him, because it is a powerful torque constantly damaging an wheels. Holman Engineering from Massachusetts has strengthened the wheel and made some improvements, so that the old machines in top condition.