The currently unfolding electromobility revolution has spurred a surge of interest in the history of EVs, and some fascinating fossils are coming to light. Our colleague Jason Torchinsky at Jalopnik unearthed an interesting relic in The Complete Book of Electric Vehicles, by Sheldon Shacket, which was published in 1979.
The book describes a prototype Volkswagen Hybrid-Electric City Taxi, which was based on a VW Type II microbus, and included such features as an automatic sliding door and a bulletproof panel separating the driver from the passenger compartment.
The really interesting part is the drivetrain, which consists of the standard VW 1600 cc air-cooled flat-four 50 hp engine that powered the Beetle and all those other fondly-remembered VW models, together with a transaxle connected to a Bosch DC shunt electric motor. A set of 11 batteries could power the car and be recharged by the gas engine.
According to the book, the hybrid bus had a top speed of about 65, and got about 20 mpg – which may be unimpressive by today’s standards, but actually might have compared pretty favorably with similar vehicles from that era.
While Torchinsky originally wrote that he was unable to find any information about this vehicle other than what’s in the book, one of his faithful readers posted a link to a VW Bus fan page (in German) that indicates Volkswagen’s early attempt at a hybrid began in 1977.