Hybrid Electric Vehicle Experiment

In response to requests for additional information, MOTHER EARTH NEWS built and tested their own experimental hybrid electric vehicle.

| September/October 1980

065 hybrid electric vehicle - 1973 subaru

The 1973 Subaru MOTHER EARTH NEWS's researchers converted into a hybrid electric vehicle.


A little over a year ago we published an article (written by contributor Robert Marshall) that described an experimental hybrid electric vehicle designed and built by an Arkansas electrical engineer named David Arthurs. In that piece, it was reported that Arthurs' vehicle (which used an on-board internal-combustion generator engine to provide "juice" to a battery bank, which—in turn—fed the car's electric drive motor) could not only travel 75 miles on a gallon of fuel, but had been converted to hybrid electric mode using just $1,500 worth of (mostly) government surplus parts!

We also, at that time, made arrangements with Mr. Arthurs to produce under his careful eye—and to offer through the magazine—a set of plans detailing the procedures and parts used by the engineer in his hybrid conversion.

As a result of David's continued testing, suggestions from readers, and our own research ... we soon discovered that the original magazine article was general enough to allow for some misconception. Furthermore, David pointed out—before we began work on the plans—that there were several technical errors in the original interviews.

Considering these facts (and always bearing in mind that Dave's car was truly experimental, and that it was constantly undergoing design changes aimed at making it better), we all went out of our way to detail the jointly prepared plans that followed the original article ... so that anyone attempting to build a hybrid vehicle could follow those instructions to determine—right from the start—exactly what components would be necessary for the car's successful operation, and could then "custom fit" the design (according to the plans) to suit his or her particular vehicle, terrain, and range requirements.

However, a few folks (some of whom hadn't purchased plans and others who had and were seeking extra assistance) were still hungry for more hybrid data ... and continued to call MOTHER EARTH NEWS and David, looking for tips. Now Mr. Arthurs has a full-time electronics business to tend to, and he simply wasn't able to conduct his regular research program, keep his business going, and answer the technical questions that came in.

So we here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS decided to build our own version of the Arkansan's prototype—using the plans we had prepared with David's help to do so—in order to be able to answer, from the authority of firsthand experience, the many hybrid-related queries that came up.

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