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Ahead of the Curve — Hybrid Vehicle Innovators and Early Adopters

Victor Wouk Victor Wouk poses proudly with his 1972 hybrid Buick Skylark at the EPA vehicle emissions-testing laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Today, the Toyota Prius is the most popular car line in California and the Los Angeles metropolitan area leads the nation in the sale of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

Forty years ago, no one would have predicted that HEVs would be so popular.  No one except Victor Wouk, the “Godfather of Hybrid Technology”.

Wouk built the first working prototype of the HEV in 1973.  A CalTech graduate with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, he successfully converted a 1972 Buick Skylark with a 20-kilowatt direct-current electric motor and an RX-2 Mazda rotary engine.  

In 1974, the car was tested at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Motor Vehicle Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Its emissions rate was 91% lower than that of gasoline-powered vehicles.  The car’s fuel efficiency rating was 30 miles per gallon, more than double the gas mileage of a regular (unconverted) 1972 Buick Skylark.  

Despite the excellent test results, the EPA rejected Wouk’s prototype.  Automotive hybrid technology languished for 25 years.  It wasn’t until the late 1990s that hybrid vehicles became commercially available.

Japanese auto manufacturers adopted many of Wouk’s technical innovations and  introduced hybrid cars to the United States.  First was the Honda Insight (1999) followed by the Toyota Prius (2000) and the Honda Civic Hybrid (2002).   The Toyota Highlander Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid and  Lexus RX 400h rolled out in 2005 and the Toyota Camry Hybrid, Lexus GS 450h and Nissan Altima Hybrid entered the marketplace in 2007.


Were you an early adopter of HEV technology?  Kudos to you for sharing Victor Wouk’s vision and passion.  

Do you own an early model hybrid vehicle?  Have you noticed a decline in your car’s performance or fuel efficiency?

If your hybrid car is seven or more years old and has been driven over 100,000 miles, your car might benefit from the Battery Pack Conditioning service offered by Hillside Auto Repair.  

Hillside’s fully trained and certified technicians will restore the power and energy of your hybrid car’s battery up to 95% of original capacity.  The service results in improved fuel economy and enhanced drivability.  Battery Pack Conditioning is economical, about 1/3 of the cost of purchasing a new battery.  And best of all, Battery Pack Conditioning reduces waste as fewer batteries are unnecessarily discarded.

Want to know more about the “State of Health” of your hybrid car’s battery?  Schedule an appointment for your FREE hybrid battery State of Health Check.


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