You can buy the 1896 Armstrong Phaeton, world’s first hybrid vehicle

Hybrid car technology is becoming pretty popular these days, but long before our time, a man named  Harry E. Dey designed and developed the first hybrid vehicle, which contained a gasoline and electric engine, back in 1896.

Now, that vehicle is up for auction by Bonhams at Amelia Island, Florida.

The 1896 Armstrong Phaeton. (Image via Bonhams)
The 1896 Armstrong Phaeton. (Image via Bonhams)

The Armstrong Phaeton, manufactured by the Armstrong Company of Bridgeport Connecticut, used an electric dynamo as the flywheel of the large, opposed-twin engine. This design allowed the engine to charge its storage batteries for ignition and lighting, but could also rotate the engine for starting. Dey even developed the model with solenoids into the intake valve housings to serve as decompressors while turning the engine electrically. The flywheel dynamo was even big enough to allow the vehicle to be propelled by solely electric power.

As for the drivetrain, an electrically operated clutch joined the engine and transmission and would engage as the motor picked up speed to generate even more dynamo power. The transmission was a three-speed constant mesh design that worked with a sliding key system and it contained an electric clutch that automatically disengaged and reengaged the engine power during gear changes.

Inside the Armstrong. (Image via Bonhams)
Inside the Armstrong. (Image via Bonhams)

When the American Horseless Carriage Company came to an end in 1896, the Armstrong remained at the Bridgeport factory and was eventually sold many years later where it landed in the hands of a UK-based veteran car enthusiast, Robin Loder, who was able to get the Armstrong operation again.

According to Bonhams Auction House,

“It is likely that this vehicle is the first in history to display many features that would become ubiquitous. There is no question that Armstrong beat Cadillac to the self-starter by a staggering 16 years! There is little doubt that the Armstrong is the oldest vehicle extant using modern style hybrid drive. The Armstrong survives today as an amazing piece of automotive innovation and proves there is nothing new under the sun.”

The vehicle is estimated to auction at around $275,000 on March 10, 2016.

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