Hybrid Cars

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Hybrid Cars
E-bikes

Engines were not only mashed up with four-wheel chassis -- they helped power two-wheeled vehicles as well. In 1867, a coal-fired steam engine was attached to a two-wheel chassis creating what was, in effect, the world's first motorcycle. Eighteen years later, Gottlieb Daimler did the same thing with a gasoline-powered engine. Today, the trend in two-wheeled vehicles is for e-bicycles, which augment their owners' pedal power with a battery and electric motor. The eco-friendly machines are particularly popular in China, where 21 million e-bikes were sold in 2008, versus 9.4 million cars [source: Ramzy].

The car itself is, of course, a mashup of epic proportions -- from the computer systems and tires to the headlights and climate control systems. But the most recent and obvious combination of different technologies in an auto is the hybrid car.

Actually, the idea for gas and electric motors to exist in the same vehicle is not all that new. The very first car to combine them was created in 1898 by a man named Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche) and was exhibited at the Paris exposition in 1900. For one reason or another, the electric car never received significant corporate or governmental funding for the next 60 years. That is, not until a Buick Skylark was converted into a hybrid car by two men working with funding from the EPA's clean car development program in the late '60s and early '70s. Even though the car passed the necessary standards, the project was scrapped. Theories abound as to why.

It wasn't until 1997 that Toyota finally introduced the world's first mass-market hybrid car -- the now extremely popular Prius, in which an electric motor powers the car at low speeds and a gas engine takes over as the car gets rolling.

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