By on February 22, 2014

Reading Alex Dykes’ review of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid, I was reminded of something by Alex’s description of the Accord’s drivetrain layout. Unlike the Toyota and Ford parallel hybrid systems (similar in function but arrived at independently), or the Chevy Volt’s Voltec drivetrain (a different spin, no pun intended, on the same basic idea that allows the Volt to operate mostly in pure electric or serial hybrid modes), which all connect electric motors and a gasoline engine to a planetary gearset, the Accord now uses an inline serial/parallel hybrid system, a concept that actually goes back a century to the Woods Dual Power automobile.

Directly connected to the engine’s output shaft of the 2014 Accord Hybrid is a motor/generator whose own output shaft is in turn connected to an electronically controlled clutch. Behind the clutch is another electric motor that drives the wheels without the use of a transmission. At low to moderate speeds, when it’s not operating on battery power alone, the Accord operates as a straight serial hybrid, like a diesel-electric locomotive. The engine drives the generator, which powers the second electric motor and there is no physical connection between the engine and the driven wheels. At higher speeds, the clutch engages and the combustion engine and motor/generator start contributing mechanical power to the system via the armature shaft of the primary drive motor. The new Accord Hybrid’s drivetrain layout reminded me of a car built almost a century ago, the 1916 Woods Dual Power. I sent Alex a link to a post I’d written about the Woods car last year for Hemmings, and when he agreed that the systems were similar I thought I’d share a description of the Woods hybrid with our readers here at TTAC. In the year or so since that was published I’ve learned more about the Woods company’s history, so this is a good opportunity to update that information.

planview

Clinton Edgar Woods, it could be said, wrote the book on electric cars, literally. Okay, so he published it in 1900 and there wasn’t as much to write about then as there is more than a 110 years later, but Woods was indeed an electric vehicle pioneer. The MIT graduate started his first electric car company, American Electric, in 1896, which two years later merged with the Indiana Bicycle company to become Waverly, a company that produced electric automobiles until 1916. In 1897, Woods started a new company under his own name in Chicago, producing five models of electric cars but the company was not profitable. A group of financiers including Chicago’s Samuel Insull, who founded Commonwealth Edison, and New Yorker August Belmont, along with a syndicate of Canadian Standard Oil investors, staged a takeover of Woods’ company to use as a vehicle to challenge the taxicab monopoly of the Electric Vehicle Company. They bought Woods’ patents and recapitalized the company at a value of $10 million, calling it the Woods Motor Vehicle Company, keeping Clinton Woods on as a consulting engineer.

1906 WOODS Elec b4

Later advertising would claim that they were the first company to sell an electric automobile. Perhaps the oil interests were hedging their energy bets but in any case they were hoping to be able to use Woods’ expertise. However, after a 1901 reorganization Woods left the firm, apparently to become a car dealer.

1903 WOODS Elec Cat p 23

Over the course of about two decades, the company would go on to sell about 13,500 passenger and commercial vehicles, including electric cars, gasoline powered cars and gasoline/electric hybrids. Long before the federal government encouraged the development of EVs, Woods was selling electric trucks to the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

1903 WOODS Elec Cat p 24

That production figure would probably make Woods Motor one of the most successful electric car companies before the modern era. The last car they sold, the Woods Dual Power, may not have been a commercial success but it was a remarkably sophisticated machine whose features are echoed in many modern hybrids besides the obvious similarities in layout with the latest Accord Hybrid.

1910 WOODS Elec 7 p 18

By 1915, two developments sounded the death knell for the early EV industry. First, in 1912 Cadillac introduced Charles Kettering’s electric self starter, making it possible for large numbers of women (who didn’t have the upper body strength to hand crankstart a car) to drive. Women drivers were an important, perhaps primary, market for the early electric car industry. Secondly, Henry Ford moved production of the Model T to his new Highland Park plant and in 1913 started using a moving assembly line, producing over 300,000 cars that year, significantly driving down the manufacturing cost and retail price of gasoline powered automobiles. Compared to Ford, the growing General Motors, and Studebaker, makers of electric cars and trucks were boutique manufacturers, they simply couldn’t compete with volume manufacturing.

Woods had made electric cars and they had made gasoline cars. To stay in business the company decided to make a car that used both power sources. While a technically clever idea with some marketing potential, a small volume car company making a novel car that involved the cost of both an electric drivetrain and a gasoline engine just as Mssrs. Ford and Durant were making conventional automobiles even cheaper may not have been the best strategic business move, but had they not gone with the hybrid you wouldn’t be reading this, then, would you?

The drivetrain of the 1916 Woods Dual Power was the brainchild of another inventor named Roland S. Fend. Though there are differences, the Woods production cars were based on a patent of Fend’s that was assigned to the company. Fend was an acknowledged expert on EVs in his day, also consulting for early EV maker Baker, Rauch & Lang

dualpowerdrivetrain

Advertised as “a self-charging, non-stalling, two-power car with unlimited mileage [range], adequate speed, and greatest economy,” the Dual Power was said to have the advantages of both gas and electric power, with the disadvantages of neither. It was faster than most other electric cars, it was easier to operate than gasoline cars, it had no clutch or gear selectors, and it didn’t necessarily need a charging station. The Dual Power even had a great logo, though in an age when some still called automobiles horseless carriages, it surprisingly used a team of two identical horses to represent the two different power sources. It’s a fantastic period logo, but it’s still a little odd.

woodsdualpowerlogo

The concept behind the Dual Power hybrid was that gasoline powered cars, in order to have reserve power for passing or hill climbing, had to be equipped with engines that are bigger and more powerful than needed in regular driving. Electric cars needed to carry around heavy extra batteries for reserve power. Fend’s idea was that the combination of a less powerful gasoline engine and an electric drive with a smaller motor and fewer batteries would be a greater whole than the sum of its parts. Each power source could propel the car at low to moderate speeds, while they could be combined when more power was needed.

The Dual Power has a 14 horsepower, 68.7 cubic inch L-head four cylinder engine supplied by Continental. It was connected to a compound-wound electric motor. Woods Motor called it a dynamotor, what we would call a motor/generator. DC compound motors have both series and parallel (also known as shunt) windings, providing adequate starting torque while still allowing accurate speed control. It was made by General Electric and rated at 48 volts at 60 amps (~6 horsepower). The electric motor was connected to the output shaft of the engine with an electromagnetic clutch manufactured by Cutler-Hammer. A battery pack made of purpose built lead acid cells supplied by Exide was rated at 115 amp-hours at a five hour discharge rate. It was about half of the size and weight of the battery packs used by conventional EVs then. The output shaft of the electric motor was connected to a driveshaft running to the back axle. While Fend’s patent shows gearboxes in the power chain before and after the electric motor, the Woods Dual Power had no transmission. The layout in Fend’s patent with gearing before and after the electric motor is similar to GM’s recently aborted 2-Mode hybrid. It also didn’t have an Entz magnetic transmission, as used in the Owens Magnetic car from the same era, even though Wikipedia says it did. That error may be attributable to the fact that the Owens Magnetic is better known than the Woods Dual Power because well known car collector Jay Leno owns an Owens Magnetic.

2579442558_5d24d52959_b

There are three and a half Woods Dual Powers known to exist. The half car, coincidentally is a Woods body mounted to the chassis of another early alternative energy vehicle, a Stanley Steamer (though in the early days, electricity and gasoline were actually alternatives to steam engines). One complete Woods car, the subject of a preservation project, is owned by a Los Angeles county museum and is on loan, displayed at the Petersen Museum. Another, said to be restored and in operating condition, is owned by the  Louwman Museum in the Netherlands. The Woods Dual Power photographed here is in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum, in original, unrestored condition, with just 11,085 miles on the odometer, though the car is not currently operational.

When it was operational, how did the Woods Dual Power work? With the clutch engaged, the combustion engine would drive the car, with torque passing directly through he electric motor’s armature shaft. With the clutch disengaged and the engine not running, the electric motor powers the car.  That much was clear.

patents

Finding out exactly how the Woods Dual Power worked, though, was a bit of a task. To begin with, with only three existing Woods powertrains, it’s not like you can find an expert on the marque at any big car show. It’s not a 1969 Camaro, or even an Isetta. Fortunately, I was able to find a sales brochure (PDF), a period guide to automotive electrical equipment for car enthusiasts, and some old trade journals that explained how the Dual Power worked and how it was operated.

Matt Anderson, the transportation curator of the Ford Museum, graciously gave me access to their car, a 1916 Woods Dual Power Model 44, for these photos. It has simple controls: a steering wheel mounted with long and short control levers, one for each of the powerplants, a brake pedal on the floorboard, and a backup pedal below where the driver sits. The dashboard contains a Stewart Warner “magnetic type” speedometer/odometer/trip meter along with a combination ammeter and charge indicator.

To operate the Dual Power, first an ignition switch on the steering column is turned on. The sources say that it’s a locking switch though the example at the Henry Ford Museum doesn’t use a key. That switch closes electrical connections in both the combustion engine’s ignition circuit and part of the circuit for the main solenoid that’s between the traction batteries and the electric motor. For safety, all high-voltage switching was done with solenoids. The longer of the two levers on the steering wheel is moved forward. That completes the main solenoid circuit, allowing electricity to power the motor, getting the car moving. Moving the lever farther forward changes the position on a shunt field control rheostat near the motor under the floorboard and as the field resistance on the motor changes, the speed increases. Moving the lever back towards its idle position decreases speed.

Once the Woods Dual Power was moving, the gasoline engine could be engaged at any time. Electric drive was generally used up to about 15 MPH. If more power was needed, just moving the shorter lever on the steering wheel to a forward position would start up the gasoline engine. That lever controlled the throttle on the carburetor. Also, moving it off the stop activated a circuit that engaged the magnetic clutch between the engine and the motor. Electricity to activate the clutch was provided either by the battery or by the motor/generator when the car was running on gasoline power.

Since the ignition circuit on the Dual Power is activated when the car is first switched on, with the relatively powerful electric traction motor already rapidly spinning, the engine on the Woods Dual Power was claimed to fire up immediately as soon as the clutch was engaged, faster than with the much weaker electric starters on conventional cars of the day. I suppose this feature would be comparable in some ways to a modern stop-start system, starting the engine when needed and shutting it off when the car was standing still. The company also claimed that the Dual Power could not be stalled. Whenever the combustion engine was driving the car, the electric motor was already spinning at engine speed even if it wasn’t energized. If the engine started to stall, power could be sent to the electric motor to assist the engine by just moving the control lever forward.

The best selling electric cars then were made by Detroit Electric and had a top speed of 20 miles per hour. With both control levers all the way forward, the Woods Dual Power had a top speed of 35 MPH, a significant improvement.

Once the car was moving forward, the gasoline engine had enough power and torque to keep it going at moderate speeds and the control lever for the electric part of the hybrid could be adjusted so that the electric motor was no longer driving the car. In those conditions, the “dynamotor” was generating more current than it was drawing, so the Woods Dual Power could theoretically recharge its own batteries while it traveled. In that aspect, the Woods Dual Power is like the extended range Chevy Volt.

phantom

Once the gasoline engine was running, the electrical system could be charged or discharged “at will” at any speed between 10 MPH and about 30 MPH, or at least that’s what the company claimed. Keeping the batteries moderately charged by the gasoline engine also extended battery life by preventing the gassing and sulphating caused by overcharging or fully depleting the charge. One could say that this was an early version of battery conditioning, an important feature of most modern electric vehicles.

Another feature of modern EVs that the Dual Power had was regenerative braking, what the company called “dynamic braking”. To slow the car, the driver would return the electric control lever to its original position, allowing the motor/generator to generate electricity and slow the car as the motor was spun by the car’s forward motion. If engine braking was needed or desired, the driver throttled back the engine with its control lever but kept the clutch engaged, then returned the engine control to it’s stop, disengaging the clutch and shutting off the engine as the car came to a full stop.

Regenerative braking was advertised as working above 6 miles per hour. To come to a complete stop the car’s mechanical brakes were activated with a foot pedal. An interesting safety feature of the car was that if the driver didn’t want to use the hand controls to slow the car, or more importantly if they didn’t have time, the brake pedal could be used by itself instead. In addition to activating the mechanical brakes, the floor pedal also closed the gasoline throttle, disengaged the clutch, and returned the field control rheostat to its minimum position, initiating regenerative braking. According to one source, the foot pedal could also be used to control the speed of the motor when operating on electricity. As with other early electric cars, advertising for the Woods Dual Power emphasized how women would find it easy to operate.

Since there was no transmission, to go backwards, the polarity of the power to the direct current electric motor was flipped so the motor spun backwards. There was also an interlock device that would not allow the operation of the reverse pedal unless the brake pedal was fully depressed. Stepping on the reversing pedal also disengages the magnetic clutch, allowing the gasoline engine to continue to run while the Dual Power is reversing.

1916 WOODS Elec 8 31 p 364

In a recent post I asked, if General Motors’ 2-Mode hybrid system for pickups and SUVs worked so well at saving fuel, how did it fail at the market, discontinued in the next product cycle? Well, just like the 2-Mode vehicles, the Woods Dual Power was relatively expensive, $2,650 in 1916 dollars. While much cheaper than the $9,000 Owens Magnetic, in 1916 you could buy almost four Ford Model Ts for the price of one Woods Dual Power. The Woods hybrid returned gas mileage that would be remarkable today, a reported 48 MPG, but economy generally has never been a big selling point with people who can afford expensive cars.

Another reason why it didn’t succeed was that the Dual Power was not as smooth, nor as reliable as advertised. For the 1917 model year, there was some reengineering in response to customer dissatisfaction, including using a larger, 95 cubic inch engine from Continental. Though faster than other electrics, the Dual Power could easily be overtaken by the far less expensive Model T, which could cruise at 40 mph, 45 if the driver was brave or stupid.

Maybe an even bigger engine or a more powerful electric drive would have made the Woods Dual Power more competitive with conventional cars. Being superior to electric cars at a time when the first generation of EVs were already in decline as the technology of gasoline engines improved and the cost of gasoline powered cars declined was not good enough. Though they planned to make between 650 and 750 Dual Power cars a year, a fraction of that number was made and Woods Motor Vehicle Company went out of business two years after introducing the hybrid.

1916 WOODS Elec 8 31 p 365

Still, the Woods Dual Power had features associated with modern hybrids and extended range hybrids like regenerative braking, stop-start, charging on the fly, and battery conditioning. It was an elegant, well thought out design whose simple operating controls belied the complexity of the electrical components, solenoids and mechanical linkages that actually operated and coordinated the machinery, gas and electric. While it may not have been superior to the conventional automobiles of the era, the Woods Dual Power’s hybrid drive system in fact did work. That Woods Motor Vehicle Co. was able to get it to do so 100 years ago, using solenoids and mechanical linkages rather than digital computer controls, was an impressive technical achievement and worthy of inclusion in a world class car museum like The Henry Ford. In that recent post about another hybrid system, the 2-Mode transmission now abandoned by its inventor, General Motors, and GM’s partners in developing the technology, Daimler, Chrysler and BMW, I said that you never know, sometime in the next century the 2-Mode system might return on passenger vehicles (the Allison truck and bus transmission the 2-Mode is based upon has been a commercial success). Perhaps 100 years from now, someone will introduce some kind of transportation device and an older person will ask a similar question as I did, “Doesn’t that operate a lot like the Accord hybrid?” and someone even older will chime in, “Or the Woods Dual Power.”

In the 1980s, General Motors tried saving fuel through cylinder deactivation. It was a pretty high tech thing and and befitting as such, GM introduced it on a Cadillac engine called the V8-6-4. Today, cylinder deactivation is commonplace across the industry and it works pretty much seamlessly. Back then, control and actuation devices weren’t so good. Cadillac buyers ended up with rather rough running engines, something that badly damaged the brand for decades, though the V8-6-4 was available for just one model year. Old ideas are indeed sometimes a bit early for their times and worth a second look when materials science and technology improve.

I’d be intrigued what would happen if someone made a modern replica of the Dual Power drivetrain. The Accord Hybrid is similar, no doubt, but it also includes a second electric motor that normally operates as a generator. The Woods car has only one motor/generator. It would be interesting to see how something directly analogous to the Woods Dual Power would work. Maybe use one of the turbocharged 3 cylinder liter motors that are proliferating in the automotive world, connected via a clutch to something smaller than the traction motor in the Tesla Model S, with a correspondingly smaller and lighter lithium-ion battery pack. Control it with a computer just like modern hybrids are controlled so you just have to step on the gas and brake pedals, not fiddle with steering wheel mounted controls, and so the batteries are maintained in a healthy state of charge without the driver’s attention needed. It might not be as quick as a Model S, but I bet it could move a compact or midsize car around safely in traffic, maybe even smartly. It would be interesting to see how it would stack up in terms of fuel and electricity consumption and range with modern hybrid designs.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

 

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32 Comments on “Plus ça Charge: 1916 Woods Dual Power, An Early Gas/Electric Hybrid of Surprising Sophistication...”


  • avatar
    jbltg

    Thanks Ronnie, fascinating! Talk about being ahead of your time!

  • avatar
    nickoo

    I think the accord’s setup is the way to go, however, I question the need for the locking shaft/clutch pack direct drive mode that comes on at higher speeds. The system I work on uses a turbo diesel engine to drive a main generator, which in turn sends power to the main propulsion electric motor*. The generator and the motor* are both over 97% efficient, giving a total efficiency from the diesel engine output to the wheels of about 94%. Does the added complexity and weight of the locking shafts/clutchpak warrant the small efficiency gain of the direct drive mode?

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Do you mean the generator and traction motor are 97% efficient? A 97% efficient ICE would be quite a serious break through.

      As far as being worth it 6% on a car with that kind of MPG translates to an improvement of 2-3mpg so I’d say it is worth it and Honda certainly thinks so or they wouldn’t be doing it. As far as the added weight I can see it weighing less than 25lbs, the large mass in a conventional clutch system is for the flywheel which is to smooth out the engine. The rotor of the generator has enough mass to do that on its own. Actuating it is probably quite simple too.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        Yes, from the output of the diesel engine to the wheels. The diesel is definitely no where near 97%! I see I wrote engine when I should have written motor, thanks for catching that.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          In other words, the generator + motor compared to a conventional transmission (ie. gearbox, gearbox + differential, transaxle, etc.). And a conventional drivetrain with 94% mechanical efficiency (from the engine to the wheels) across a variety of speeds and conditions would be a very respectable respectable achievement.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        Yeah, now that I think about it and having read your response, it probably does make sense to go direct drive at highway speeds if you can keep the RPM of the gas engine in it’s peak thermal efficiency range and it’s tuned to do so at highway speeds.

        In a typical setup that I described, you would have excess power potential from the main generator which is used to run the auxillery systems, cars auxilleries generally aren’t a huge load and at highway speeds, that excess power could charge the batteries until they were charged. But then by remaining at highway speeds I would think you would be forced to just throttle down the engine to save gasoline, which Honda must have experimented tuning for before going to their direct drive setup and just like the engineers on the Volt, found that it was a lot less efficient than direct drive.

        A properly tuned engine for a generator with a fairly steady load demand would likely have a very narrow RPM range where it achieves peak efficiency as it would be expected to only run in the peak efficiency RPM range, but that isn’t the case for an automobile once the batteries are charged and the control system has no-where to put that extra load (i.e. highway speeds)

        Now the way that Alex described the hybrid system, he mentioned that the direct drive clutch pack was the equivalent of a highway overdrive gear. I wonder if there’s a reduction gear in the clutch pack module or they just use a drive ratio of 1:1.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          You certainly could design the system so that the ICE was optimized for running the generator and allowing the excess energy to charge the batteries to full and then shut down completely until they reached a certain state of discharge. The average consumer might feel uneasy about all the shut down/restart cycles at hwy speeds though. In theory that could be more efficient than the way Honda is doing it but all the shut down and restart at hwy speeds could be disconcerting to many people.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Such frequent charge-discharge-charge-discharge comes at a significant cost in battery life.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            @ Jim, that is how the new Accord Hybrid works when you are driving at speeds below where the clutch will engage and create a direct link between the engine and wheels. The motor runs at a speed that generates more energy than is needed to move the vehicle and that energy is used to charge the battery. Once the battery reaches the max SOC they have designed for the engine shuts off and the battery is drained until it reaches the minimum SOC they have designed into the system. It then repeats over and over again if you don’t drive fast enough. At hwy speeds if you are descending a grade the traction motor will then be used to charge the battery and the engine shut off while you are coasting down the grade. At the bottom of the grade you’ll be propelled by the battery until the target SOC is reached. The only way you can avoid constant charge discharge cycles is to drive in the clutch engaged speed range on flat or almost flat terrain.

          • 0 avatar
            wumpus

            Interesting. It is thus yet another chance to question battery life in electric cars (first they said that replacing prius batteries would be expensive, then they didn’t need to be replaced. Then they said that Tesla batteries would be expensive to replace: Tesla hasn’t gone out of business replacing heavily warrantied batteries. Actually, plenty of electric haters keep on harping this) as this requires far more battery use than anything we’ve seen.

            Note that this would be ideal for ultracapacitors, which have longevity measured in cycles essentially impossible for cars to exceed. Unfortunately, I doubt that capacitors will be used for anything like this soon: the “holy grail” for capacitors is more like enough energy to go from 0-max speed [especially if limited]: having this capacity means acceleration (and regenerative braking) wouldn’t be limited by batteries (even using much smaller packs) and having far fewer (and lighter) charge/discharge cycles.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            I’m not an electric car hater or hybrid hater. Just pointing out the considerations (and consequences) that go into design decisions.

            Toyota got it right with the Prius’ batteries in all versions of that car. Honda got it right with the original Insights and Civic Hybrid, but they got it wrong with the second-generation Civic Hybrid- and I don’t miss much opportunity to draw attention back to the basic mistakes they made with that car’s drivetrain that badly affected battery longevity. I used to have one and I quite enjoyed driving it during the 35,000 miles I put on it.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Fascinating indeed ~

    I wonder if some enterprising people could copy this as I see Prius’ are the # 1 taxi in California now…..

    -Nate

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Great article Ronnie! The details and pics give a window into the events and technologies of the automotive pioneers.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Everyone who remembers the basics of their Physics education recalls that each energy conversion loses efficiency, which puts series hybrids as the most efficient means of converting liquid fuels into motive force. North America’s hyper efficient freight railroads demonstrate this thousands of times each day.

    A resurrection of the Woods Dual Power using the benefits of modern materials science and engineering would provide an outstanding and economical driving experience. An engine sized to provide the average horsepower needed for a trip coupled with adaptive charge management to maintain battery condition would provide adequate power everywhere, although drivers would need to adjust to the disconcerting prospect of hearing the engine start and stop without their direct input.

    And I’ll reiterate Doc Olds’ prior comment: this has been the most entertaining article I’ve read today, and one of the best bits I’ve come across anywhere this week. Just like the old “Famous Americans you Never Knew Existed” tomes, you’ve enlightened us with your research.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      No the fact that there are losses in conversion from one form of energy to another shows that the serial hybrid is not the most efficient method. You go from torque to electricity and then from electricity to torque with some extra loss in the transmission of electricity from the generator to the motor, which is why Honda switches to direct drive when appropriate. The big reason that locomotives use a serial hybrid type of drive is the fact that it is easier to transmit the electricity and split it between multiple drive motors than it is to create a drive system that can transmit that mount of torque and deliver it to all the drive wheels.

      Today’s Hybrids do use an effectively smaller engine, via the Atkinson style cycle that the run on to increase efficiency when cruising and keep a minimum SOC in the battery to provide additional power when needed.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        On the other hand, “direct drive” has its own inefficiencies and imperfections: the engine is rarely operating at a perfectly optimal rpm+throttle combination for the demand on it and the fact that the driveline has to go through at least one stage of gears on its way from the crankshaft to the wheels. Every decision comes with its pluses and minuses.

        * “Optimal” being wide open throttle (minimum pumping losses) and the lowest possible rpm (ie. barely faster than lugging). For example: a family sedan, cruising at a moderate highway speed, needs about 10-20hp. A modern four cylinder engine can easily meet that demand and do it smoothly at just over 1,000rpm. THAT is how to design a car to get the most possible mileage. The problem with ridiculously tall gearing is that it’s unrealistic- when the driver needs even a little more power (doesn’t have to be a steep hill or max blast acceleration) the engine has nothing in reserve when the throttle is nearly wide open, and very few drivers are tolerant to transmissions that constantly “hunt” or the feel of CVT lag (which is really just verrrrrry smooth response). Having the instant torque on demand from a parallel electric motor does a lot to make up for that…

        Just food for thought.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    @Ronnie
    Very good. It’s quite interesting the ideas of old. It’s not that we weren’t any smarter, we were limited on what engineering was available.

    Reading this article brings back memories of the fantastic Mechanics Illustrated, Popular Mechanics and Popular Science magazines my father had. I remember the old ones were slightly larger than a Reader Digest.

    Somehow he managed to get 100s of those magazines starting from the 30s right through to the 70s. I figured he got them through a deceased estate.

    These magazines are what lead to my current career.

    I do recall reading an article from a mid 60s magazine on a homebuilt 50hp EV. I remember it was done in Florida.

    Thanks again for the effort and research you’ve done.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Really interesting article, Ronnie, and thanks! I love the details of how all the pieces work together.

    Small nitpick for you, 48V 60A DC motor comes to just under 4hp (not 6).

    Clever headline too- it could be its own Jeopardy! category.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Ronnie – thanks for the extensive time and research put into this article.

    This car’s design was genius, but the controls sound pretty complicated for the driver.

    Cost/benefit (“value”) has always been an important factor in a car’s success. If Ford’s car’s hadn’t benefited from mass production, the Woods Dual Power might have been a longer-term success. It is telling (from a technology, infrastructure, features, and cost standpoint) that it took a whole century to pass for a company like Nissan to produce a commercially viable EV, and yet it’s possible that the Leaf is still propped up by the other nameplates in Nissan’s portfolio. Tesla is even more exposed, but it’s possible they will turn the viability corner soon.

    Too bad there are so few of these cars left. I would love to see one running, and better yet, to drive one. I can’t imagine the difficulty of restoring one of these to running condition.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for the kind words. Cars then were more complicated to operate. Ever seen what’s involved in starting and driving a Model T? Compared to that the Woods Dual Power is simplified. Regarding restoration, most of the mechanical components were off-the-shelf and the control systems are switches and solenoids. My brother fixes industrial machinery and I bet he could get the Woods car in the Ford Museum running.

  • avatar
    TopJimmy5150

    My understanding is that Prius operates in series and parallel mode and licensed their tech to Ford.

    • 0 avatar

      From Autoblog:

      “The reality is that Ford independently developed its own hybrid system at the same time Toyota was doing its own. The basic architecture of both systems is the same and both are based on the concepts developed and patented by TRW engineers in the late 1960s. When Ford introduced the Escape Hybrid, Toyota went after the Blue Oval for infringing on its patents. Ford had patents of its own on the technology that Toyota was using. Eventually, the two companies reached a cross-licensing agreement that gives both companies the right to build their own systems.”

      Also, both Toyota and Ford (and other companies, too, I believe) have contracted licensing agreements with Paice LLC to use Alex Severinsky’s patents on electronically controlled hybrids.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Yes there are some conditions when the Ford/Toyota Hybrids will operate in a series mode but it is pretty rare.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Damn the Hybrid tech…I want a car with this thing’s greenhouse!

  • avatar
    ravenchris

    After reading this article, my Camry CVT does not seem so special.
    Thanks.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    The real forerunner was Ferdinand Porsche with his Lohner- mixti cars.
    A replica has been built of one the later cars.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lohner-Porsche

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    Brilliant article! This is a great update on the Hemmings-article, and the insight it provides into human ingenuity is just fantastic.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Just read that it has an aluminum body to boot. Everything that’s old is new again.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Thanks for posting this!


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