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1896 Horseless Carriage Was a Hybrid Car

The 1896 Armstrong phaeton hybrid has a 6.5-liter boxer-twin gasoline engine and a flywheel that serves as an electric motor.

The Toyota Prius may have started the era of modern hybrid cars when it debuted in Japan in 1997, but it was far from the first hybrid vehicle.

Ferdinand Porsche actually designed a handful of hybrid and electric cars with Vienna-based carriage builder Jacob Lohner and Company, starting in 1898.

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But there's another vehicle that predates even that effort.

It's this 1896 Armstrong phaeton hybrid, which resurfaced at the Bonhams car auction during the recent Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance-and may be the world's first hybrid.

That hybrid horseless carriage was designed by Harry E. Dey, and built by the Armstrong Manufacturing Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, according a Hemmings blog post detailing the car.

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Dey was an advocate of electric cars, and produced a design for one in 1895, which brought him to the attention of the Rogers Mechanical Carriage Company.

Rogers had been importing cars from France and wanted a homegrown design, but wouldn't accept an all-electric car because of concerns over range limitations.

So Dey designed his hybrid system, which include a 6.5-liter boxer-twin gasoline engine and a flywheel. The flywheel served as an electric motor when the car was underway, drawing power from onboard batteries. But it could also help start the car, a remarkable feature in the era of hand cranks.

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It also served as a generator, recharging the batteries, powering onboard accessories like lights, and even providing a degree of regenerative braking. The flywheel was even reportedly powerful enough to power the carriage by itself for short distances.

Armstrong was contracted to build the prototype, which appeared in an 1896 issue of "Horseless Age" magazine (presumably the "Motor Trend" of its day). Rogers formed the American Horseless Carriage Company to market the car, but neither entity survived past 1896.

Armstrong took custody of the prototype, which sat in a corner of its factory until 1963. It then passed through the hands of several collectors and was eventually restored.

It sold for $483,400 at the Bonhams Amelia Island auction -- not bad for such an obscure machine.

Few people may have heard of it, but all of today's hybrid drivers may owe Harry E. Dey and his car a tip of the hat.

Get more from Green Car Reports

First-Ever Porsche Turns Out To Be An Electric Car 1917 Detroit Electric Vs 2014 BMW i3: A Century Of Electric Cars 1899 Vintage Electric Car Sells For Record-Breaking $550,000 In Auction This article originally appeared on Green Car Reports, a High Gear Media company; all rights reserved.

The 1896 Armstrong phaeton may be the world's first gas-electric vehicle.

Petro is so 1973. Two words if you don't know what we're talking about: Gas lines. With research in alternative energy at an all-time high, scientists are coming up with more ways than one to power vehicles, from

Toyota's new hydrogen car

to a compressed air-powered car in India. We take a look at 10 alternatives that don't require a drop of traditional petroleum-based fuel. Let's go for a ride.

Hydrogen-fueled cars certainly seem ideal. For gas, they use the most abundant element in the universe, and emissions consists of precisely two things -- heat and water. What's not to love? In terms of mass production, though, issues of technical feasibility and affordability are still being worked out. For starters, hydrogen doesn't exist on its own. It has to be manufactured and that process oftentimes burns fossil fuels. Thankfully, plenty of researchers are trying to figure out to made hydrogen using renewable energy. Several hydrogen fuel vehicles are currently in development, including the Honda FCX Clarity, available for lease in southern California.

Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year, the Quant e-Sportlimousine has a driving range of more than 370 miles and is powered by saltwater. Well, kinda-sorta. The car's unique electric flow battery uses salt water as a storage solution, with two separate 200-liter tanks in the rear of the vehicle.

A subset of the biofuel designation, biodiesel is produced from soy or vegetable oil and can be used as a pure fuel itself or blended with petroleum in any percentage. According to National Biodiesel Board, the U.S. produced 1.1 billion gallons of biofuel in 2012, up from 112 million gallons in 2005.

Vehicles powered by wood gas generators use timber or charcoal as raw fuel, creating a mixture called syngas consisting of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and nitrogen. The technology of applying gasification to internal combustion engines dates back to the 19th century, and some countries still use wood gas vehicles on a large scale. The image above shows a wood gas military truck in North Korea.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles can be found all over the world, and are particularly popular in regions where natural gas is abundant. In the United States, many public transit services have switched to using CNG buses, which produce much less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) has a much higher energy density than CNG, but must be cooled with onboard cryogenic systems.

The great electric hope of the alternative fuel vehicle movement, the Tesla Model S uses an automotive-grade lithium-ion battery with a maximum range of around 265 miles. The Tesla's battery plugs into a standard 120-volt and 240-volt outlets, and is designed so that the car can be completely charged overnight. The car's got some pick-up, too. With the 85 kWh performance battery, the Tesla Model S goes from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph.

Steam-driven engines predate internal combustion engines by about a century, but the first steam-driven cars were developed around the same time as gas-powered ones. The line of vehicles collectively known as the Stanley Steamer used a compact fire-tube boiler under the hood (sometimes under the seat!) to power a two-stroke engine. Early steam-driven cars burned wood or coal to heat water.

Compressed air vehicles employ engines powered by, yes, compressed air. Stored in high-pressure steel or carbon-fiber tanks, the air expands rapidly to drive the engine, similar to steam engines. The oneCAT compressed-air car pictured above, from India's Tata Motors, has been supposedly forthcoming for several years now -- an apparent instance of vehicular vaporware.

Solar cars use photovoltaic cells (PVC) to convert the sun's energy into electricity, which is then pumped into a battery or directly into the vehicles electric engine. The Venturi Eclectic concept car, pictured above, combines solar, battery and even wind power systems in a three-passenger car designed for city driving.

For the ultimate muscle car experience, you can always go with human power. Several variations on the theme have been developed, using bicycle pedals and the old railway handcart technique, often augmented with battery power for electric human powered hybrid (HEHV) vehicles. The HumanCar Project -- recent model pictured above -- has been in development for more than 40 years.