Hybrid Car Combines Gas and Electric

"It's a parallel drive setup that harnesses the power of gasoline and electricity," explains Randy Olson, White Rock, S. Dak., a college student studying for an engineering career.

Randy Olson says his "hybrid car", a Volkswagen bug, works well for short-trip driving, gets 42 mpg, and reaches a top road speed of 50 mph.

The car operates essentially on its 16 hp gasoline engine but, when additional power is needed, the electric system switches on automatically and helps out -- for acceleration or hill climbing. Olson said acceleration rate is 0 to 30 mph in 10 seconds. The car has a manual overdrive switch.

The booster electric motor is a 400-amp (10 hp) aircraft starter/generator and the gasoline engine is 16 hp. The batteries can be recharged by the gasoline engine in case the operator runs out of electricity on a trip. The car will run without any electric power, says Olson, but performance is poor due to reduced available horse-power.

 The electric motor's power is transferred through a belt drive to the shaft of the main motor.

Olson says his hybrid car concept is more practical for short-trip driving.