Gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles are nothing new, as some news from as far back as 1929 goes to show. Colonel Edward Howland Robinson “Ned” Green had three hybrids custom-built for him. A wealthy son of the wealthy, but eccentric, Hetty Green, had a hybrid car designed and built simply because he could.
Of course, there was a small matter of necessity which fueled his dream of a hybrid car, because by 1929, the automatic transmission simply hadn’t been invented yet. Green had lost a leg in a childhood accident, so the only way to get around was by chauffer, since you need two legs to drive a manual transmission vehicle.
A shareholder of General Electric, Green had pledged $1 million, about $167 million today, toward a gasoline-electric program. The vehicle he eventually received was a small cabriolet, a 1929 Stearns-Knight M 6-80. The Stearns-Knight engine was mated to a hybrid system designed by GE and manufactured by Rauch and Lang in Massachusetts.
Green was happy with his cabriolet and ordered a carriage and a sedan, and promptly withdrew funding from the project. GE and Rauch and Lang had actually intended to produce the new hybrid vehicles, but that was scrapped after the 1929 Stock Market Crash. Stearns-Knight and Rauch and Lang shut down and never produced another vehicle.
The cabriolet was scrapped after Green’s death in 1936. The carriage is currently under restoration, and the sedan, after changing hands and being restored a couple of times, is currently on display in the JWR Auto Museum.