Automania by Dr. Iain Corness

Hungarian GP - a quick history


As a racing venue, Hungary has a long history, with its first GP run in 1906, and regular events in Budapest since 1926. Built with state backing, and laid out in a natural amphitheatre, the Hungaroring opened in 1986 and attracted an estimated 200,000 spectators. Though the event was well organized, and the hosts very appreciative, it was felt that the 4 km Hungaroring had been laid out more in the style of a twisty street circuit rather than a bespoke road track. There were few opportunities for overtaking, though things were eased from 1989 when a tight corner was by-passed and the lap distance became slightly less than 4 km. However, it remains a circuit that is not high on any of the drivers’ lists, unless you are after a piece of quick action behind the pits, as the Hungarian government actually erected (nice word in the sex scene) some mobile brothels a couple of years ago. I think they are still in use today!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned Lotus and the Lotus 14 which was released at the London Motor Show in 1957 and was called the Lotus Elite. A beautifully smooth design, it was the world’s first fiberglass monocoque. Colin Chapman’s accountant was very much involved with this car. I asked what was his name, and what part did he have to play? His name was Peter Kirwan-Taylor and he designed the body.
So to this week. The first man to fly the English Channel was Frenchman Louis Bleriot. Why should we remember him when we drive at night?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]
Good luck!


Are hybrids a new technology?
While many people think that the hybrid technology is something new - it isn’t. In 1900, a Belgian carmaker, Pieper, built a three and a half horsepower “voiturette” in which the small petrol engine was mated to an electric motor under the seat. When the car was cruising, its electric motor was in effect a generator, recharging the batteries, but when the car was climbing hills, the electric motor, mounted coaxially with the petrol engine, gave it a boost. The Pieper patents were used by a Belgium firm, Auto-Mixte, to build commercial vehicles from 1906 to 1912.
In 1902, German Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, at age 25, built his first hybrid, using an internal combustion engine to spin a generator that provided power to electric motors located in the wheel hubs. On battery alone, the car could travel nearly 75 km. So much for the 64 km goal espoused at the Plug-in 2008 conference!
In 1905, an American engineer named H. Piper (not to be confused with the Belgian Pieper) filed a patent for a petrol-electric hybrid vehicle. His idea was to use an electric motor to assist an internal combustion engine, enabling it to achieve 40 km/h. Up to the start of WW I, there were petrol engines, steam engines, electric (battery) engines and hybrids, but then in 1913 the self-starter was invented to make starting of petrol engines easy, and killed steam, electric and hybrid sales.
Some manufacturers persevered and in 1916, two prominent electric-vehicle makers - Baker of Cleveland and Woods of Chicago - offered hybrid cars. Woods claimed that their hybrid reached a top speed of 60 km/h and achieved fuel efficiency of 48 mpg. The Woods Dual Power was more expensive and less powerful than its gasoline competition, and therefore sold poorly.
Despite the hiatus, the concept stayed alive in some engineering brains, and in 1974, Dr. Victor Wouk and his partner built a hybrid power source which they installed in a Buick Skylark. This they entered in an obscure research program called the Federal Clean Car Incentive Program (FCCIP). This resulted in their subjecting their hybrid to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and it passed their stringent anti-pollution testing. However, a month later, the EPA sent a report citing 75 reasons why the hybrid would not go into the next phase of support. One man in the EPA was against this branch of technology and eventually Victor Wouk just gave up.
But in 2004, one year before his death, Victor Wouk was asked what might have happened if EPA officials running the Federal Clean Car Incentive Program had been less committed to an anti-hybrid view. “Do you think it would have meant a different outcome for this country and the evolution of hybrids cars?” Wouk replied, “That is what I had been espousing for almost 30 years. If we must reduce automobile pollution and reduce automobile fuel consumption a large amount in a short period of time. The only thing you should do is use existing technologies, and as these technologies improve, you just go ahead. But nobody did anything about it until, independently, the Japanese - Toyota and Honda.”
So there you are. We have been ignoring fuel economy by deluding ourselves that oil was cheap and would last forever. However, it no longer is, and apparently the oil reserves are finite. And we should not forget that while crude oil is $130 a barrel as I write this, the Middle East is going from strength to strength, building new cities in the deserts, paid for by you and me and everyone who has a gasoline engined vehicle. And while governments may give lip service to the motorist’s plight, do not forget that governments all over the world get a tremendous rake-off at the pumps in the form of tax. The motorist pays again!

Victor Wouk and his hybrid Buick.