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An Estonian influence on early hybrid cars

Photo of the Miss Purity hybrid car from

The history of hybrid vehicles has gaps in it. Many would associate its origins with the Toyota Prius, which debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1995. Indeed, it became the first mass-market hybrid passenger car upon the beginning of production in 1997.

However, the first hybrid vehicle was actually engineer Ferdinand Porsche's Lohner-Porsche Mixte built in 1899. This car was fuelled by gasoline, which created power for an electric motor.

But Estonia has its own hand in the story of the hybrid vehicle, between those two eras. Engineer and Estonian community member Jüri Otsason, who passed away in September 2022, was closely involved in the creation of a hybrid car back in 1970.

It all began when Otsason emigrated to Canada at the age of 20. The year was 1966. Otsason went ahead of his parents August and Saale, who were still in Stockholm. It was here, at the University of Toronto, that he pursued a Master's degree in mechanical engineering.

Around this time, US legislation such as the Clean Air Act of 1963 and US-wide tailpipe emission standards in 1968 contributed to the buzz and interest around mitigating pollution from automobiles. Douglas Ve...

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