The greatest challenge every pioneering auto builder faced was finding a suitable source of power.
Petroleum-fueled internal combustion powerplants, steam engines and electric motors were equal hopefuls in the drive to replace horses with horsepower. When one contraption lacked the gumption to climb hills, resourceful horseless-carriage builders simply added a second power source, as if they were harnessing another mare to the team.
The pioneers weren't aware they were nurturing what we now call hybrid vehicles.
Several milestones of their progress noted here were drawn from Ernest Wakefield's History of the Electric Automobile: Hybrid Electric Vehicles.
- 1894: Italian textile manufacturer Count Felix Carli added tensioned rubber bands to double the power in his electric tricycle.
- 1897: Justus Entz, chief engineer at a Philadelphia battery company, built the first carriage powered by an internal combustion engine assisted by an electric motor. Sluggish performance was reported. Worse, the experiment was destroyed when an electrical spark ignited the gasoline tank.
- 1899: Two hybrids appeared at the Paris Salon. One from a Belgian firm featured parallel internal combustion and electric propulsion.