Try a Hydraulic Drive Train: This Car of the Future Gets 75 MPG

Is this car of the future with a hydraulic drive train what is in store for automobiles? The redesigned car is made of off-the-shelf products available to anyone, so go make your own fuel-efficient vehicle!

| March/April 1978

Street Ready Automobile

The street-ready automobile gets up to 75 miles on a single gallon of gasoline!


It seems that Portland, Oregon's Vincent Carman isn't alone. At least one other group of inspired experimenters has found a way to use car hydraulics to vastly increase an automobile's gas mileage.

Bright Idea: A Hydraulic Drive Train

That group is a class of advanced students at Minneapolis, Minnesota's Hennepin Vocational Technical Center. And under the guidance of instructor Ernie Parker (and without ever having heard of Vince or his inertial storage transmission), the class recently designed and built what they call a "hydraulic storage transmission."

Does it work? It sure does! As the students have already demonstrated when their special drive train is coupled to a 16-hp Tecumseh engine, installed in a Volkswagen chassis and covered with a Bradley GT body, the resulting one-of-a-kind automobile will travel (at speeds up to 70 mph) an incredible 75 miles on a single gallon of gas.

That's impressive, especially when you remember that the HVTC fuel-stretcher was entirely constructed from off-the-shelf components that are readily available to any home mechanic in any part of the country. The sleek little automobile contains absolutely no exotic technology or hardware at all.

It All Began in 1920

The HVTC class project was originally launched because of a 1920 magazine article brought in by student Tom Steincamp. The piece described an automobile with a hydraulic drive train and labeled the vehicle "the car of the future." Some library research and a few group discussions soon convinced the class that the idea was a good one but that it would be even better if an energy saving accumulator was added to the hydraulic system.

Before long, Parker's crew had roughed out a preliminary design of the new hydraulic drive. And the concept looked so good on paper that the group simply decided to go ahead and build one to see how it would work.

cindy lenahane
4/5/2012 3:50:55 AM

Of course "Mother" didn't keep up with it. this project could actually work. I know a few people if I could find some reasonably priced variable volume hydraulic pumps/motors. Another tricky area is the accumulators. Where to find accumulators that can regularly handle up to 3,000 psi? in great enough volume?

2/10/2010 9:09:33 AM

Quoting the last paragraph of the article: And maybe MOTHER will be able to help make that possible. Naturally, a great deal of testing remains to be done on the HVTC concept, the design will undoubtedly be refined as time goes on, etc. But this magazine's editors intend to monitor the work of Ernie Parker's group closely, do what we can to help the engineering team hone and develop its ideas ... and keep you informed of the progress that is made. Perhaps, before too long, we'll even be able to offer you plans that you can use in the construction of your own 75-mpg "car of the future". Have you made any plans, or headway into your 'monitoring' of Ernie Parker's group? Granted, it was 30 years ago, when this article was written, but as your 'comments' section shows, there is definitely interest. The one diagram available doesn't seem to provide enough detail to build a system with whats there. If you have anything more on the topic, please share!

9/24/2009 8:41:11 AM

Hennepin Vocational Technical Center, Vince's car, the HVTC machine, Hennepin Tech students' energy storage transmission, Vince Carman's Inertial Storage Transmission, The Portland car, HVTC vehicle, HVTC automobile, The little car, HVTC fuel-stretcher, sleek little automobile, and for the team that built it Parker's students, Hennepin Tech students, Ernie Parker's engineering team, Ernie's class, HVTC students, Ernie Parker's engineering team, use one term and stick to it the above is thoroughly confusing. Avoiding repetion is a style guide not an absolute rule. Sometimes you need to repeat a term; if you need to repeat a term then repeat the term.

sean bornemann
7/6/2009 7:44:52 PM

I have been working on military aircraft, specifically hydraulics, for about nine years. I too have begun desinging a fluidly driven vehicle. My focus is not only on being green and efficient, but includes all problem areas of modern vehicles. I am curious though, how does one go about meeting with and pitching ideas to a group of investors? any help would be great.

thomas r collins jr
1/11/2009 10:02:11 PM

Got plans? I have been able to find books and manuals on building electric powered vehicles and gas-electric hybrids. But I have not been able to find anything other than highly simplified diagrams for gas-hydraulic hybrids like this one. Also this a series hydraulic hybrid without any computerization, yet it works. I'd gladly pay to see a parts list and detailed photos and/or drawings to see how he did it.

rodney noltensmeier
7/28/2008 2:25:04 PM

Very interesting. Most of the parts necessary to build this car can be bought at a used Caterpillar Parts Center. I would like to see the oil diagram for this car. A small Diesel Engine should give great economy. Maybe a two or three cylinder.

7/15/2008 6:19:13 PM

If plans ever come from this then I WANT some. It would be nice to see about a follow up article on this subject.

6/26/2008 7:28:57 AM

Are the plans available for the home-grown engineer that wants to build one of these?

6/26/2008 7:28:56 AM

Are the plans available for the home-grown engineer that wants to build one of these?

6/26/2008 7:28:55 AM

Are the plans available for the home-grown engineer that wants to build one of these?

9/25/2007 10:31:16 AM

Great car concept. I'd like to build something similar. What progress did they make? Are plans available?

6/1/2007 6:12:33 PM

So how do you build one? I'd be willing to give it a try with the knowledge available.

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