The idea of building environmentally friendly or “green” cars is not something new, even though Green Prophet has written many articles on new electric and hybrid cars. In addition to factory produced models, other articles have on “do it yourself” (DIY) models, which have included a home-made electric car, using conventional wet cell car batteries; and even a Palestinian home made electric car powered by solar energy. Let’s look back a little at what people before us had come up – well before the notion of Peak Oil and global warming.
Since innovation is the “mother of invention”, the colorful history of individual inventors who have made energy saving and green models of vehicles goes back virtually as far as the invention of the motorcar itself. Looking back through some archives of the still popular Popular Science magazine (still a favorite, though more read online these days) some interesting types of “green” vehicles were found that were the brainstorm of enterprising inventors, some of whom were still teenagers.
The Velodyne Streamlined Bike
One of these, a futuristic streamlined bicycle, was invented by a Frenchman, Marchel Riffard, who was Chief engineer at a renowned French airline firm.
Called the Velodyne, it consisted of a completely enclosed aerodynamic shell built around the bike itself, which Riffard claimed would enable a rider to reach speeds of up to 60 mph due to creating less wind resistance.
Although the prototype did work, and enabled riders to reach speeds of nearly 50 mph, the device was banned from competing in actual racing competitions. It did, however, act as a useful tool for testing aerodynamic designs for use in aircraft.
Another home made gas stingy auto was one made in 1934 by Dr. Calvin B. Bridges, a biologist from California. His streamlined vehicle, which also used aerodynamic designs, used a light frame of welded light steel tubing and a motorcycle engine. The two-seater weighed only 700 pounds (318 kg) and could travel at speeds of up to 60 mph, with gas mileage at between 50 and 70 miles per gallon.
Jamesburg “Steamer” – 1940
Perhaps the most innovative car of this time, was a steam propelled model built in 1940 by two teenage boys in Jamesburg, New Jersey, completely out of old parts and items found at a local junkyard.
The two-seater car frame and transmission came from an old truck; the boiler from two home space heaters. The firebox for wood fuel originated from an old stove. The car’s steam “boiler” could generate 25 pounds per square inch of steam.
When WWII broke out a year and a half later, and gasoline became rationed, this home made “Stanley Steamer” had no problem going along on its scrap wood fuel supply.
Times have changed and DIY cars are now made to run on a variety of fuels, including solar energy. In the days when gasoline was selling for as low as 10 cents per gallon, trying to save energy costs was not on people’s minds. But then again, in the 1930’s a “dime” went a lot further than it does now.
Read more on green and energy saving cars: