Briggs and Stratton started a Hybrid vehicle program in an effort to promote their new air-cooled twin gasoline engine. Electric vehicles were again in the news because of the Arab oil embargo of the mid-1970s. Industrial Designer Brooks Stevens collaborated on the Hybrid project with his son Kipp and had an interest in alternative-fuel vehicles, especially electric vehicles.
Brooks and Kipp came up with the six-wheeled design. The unusually proportioned body featured a windshield and doors from a Volkswagen Scirocco. The second rear axle was essentially a captive trailer axle that was used to support the 12 six-volt batteries housed behind the seats; only the center axle actually drove the car. The 18hp twin and an 8hp electric motor under the hood powered the car in a parallel hybrid configuration.
|1979 Briggs and Stratton Hybrid|
On electric power alone the vehicle could travel around 60 miles at up to 40 mph; powered by the gasoline twin it could travel around 280 miles delivering 25 miles per gallon. The vehicle utilized regenerative braking a feature found on today's hybrids.
It never ceases to amaze me that there is essentially a 25-30 year gap in consumer interest in hybrids and concern for the environment. Well, better late than never.
The Hybrid received a lot of attention and brought publicity to Stevens' firm and the vehicle even landed on the cover of Motor Trend magazine.Although it never entered production the Hybrid remains in the possession of Briggs and Stratton. It's high time this pioneering and dynamic looking design finds its way into the Hot Wheels line.
As a footnote I'm a fan of six-wheelers many of which are Hot Wheels such as the Tyrell, Tow Jam, GMC Motorhome and of course the Open Fire, based on the AMC Gremlin, which reminds me of Stevens' Hybrid. In fact Stevens spent several years providing design work for AMC including the JEEP Wagoneer and Hornet.
|1972 Hot Wheels Open Fire|
And speaking of Hot Wheels, Brooks Stevens also designed the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile in 1958. In his own words he "put the wiener in the bun". Yes indeed.
|1993 Hot Wheels Wienermobile|
This post was inspired by Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World. It's a beautiful book about an amazing designer and his talented design team. It's the best book I've ever read about Industrial Design. Check it out.