A Made-in-Cambridge Hybrid Car From a Century Ago Makes a Comeback

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Hybrid vehicles are becoming a staple in the automotive industry these days. From Volkswagen to Ford, all of the big name automakers have great hybrid options in response to the growing concern of environmentalism and our need for cleaner vehicles. However, did you know that Cambridge was actually a bit ahead of the curve when it comes to hybrids? Oh, and by a bit, we mean pretty much a century ahead.

Automotive careers were just coming into popularity a century ago and yet the town of Cambridge was responsible for birthing a hybrid vehicle long before any of the major automakers took a stab at it. Now, with the town producing Canada’s first full hybrid car – the Lexus RX 450h, it looks like things have come full circle. You can check out a video of the modern hybrid making Cambridge famous here:

However, if you’re an auto mechanic or even just an enthusiast, one question is no doubt on your mind right now – where did it all start?

The Galt Motor Company

About a hundred or so years ago, Moffat St. Clair and Eddy Fleming made the purchase of what was then a failed car company dubbed Canadian Motors Ltd. The company had just made an automobile called the Galt Touring car in 1911 but the fledgling company was floundering. They renamed it the Galt Motor Company and started building gas-powered automobiles to fund the project they were really interested in – a gas-electric hybrid automobile.

The Galt Gas-Electric Car

Introduced in 1914, the Galt Gas-Electric Car used a combination of gasoline and kerosene to power a Westinghouse generator. When the engine ran, it turned a turbine that generated electricity that was then stored in rudimentary batteries underneath the car. Though it only reached a top speed of 48 km/h, it was extremely efficient, being able to travel 24 km on just the electric charge. This helped to alleviate consumers’ fears of running out of gas before the next station, as back in those days that was a legitimate risk you had to take.

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Why the Flop?

You’d think because of the popularity of hybrids these days, this idea would have caught on like wildfire in 1914, however that wasn’t the case. It was the case of an idea being just a bit too ahead of its time, and with gasoline being fairly cheap, no one really saw the need for the car, and it soon went the way of the dinosaurs. Only two of the models were ever built, and only one exists to this day. Thankfully, if you’re an interested auto technician or a budding historian, the last surviving model has made its way to Cambridge at the Toyota Visitor’s Centre where it’s now on display for all to revel in its forward-thinking glory.

So while the world may not have been ready for it, the Galt Motor Company was on the cutting edge of innovation in 1914, and the legacy of that innovation lives on to this day.

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