No Gear Shifting in This Car (Jan, 1930)

No Gear Shifting in This Car

AN automobile which has no clutch pedal and no gears to shift has been built for Col. Edward Green, wealthy son of the late Hetty Green. The novel control system of the car is made possible by substituting a generator and an electric motor in place of the usual transmission. The flywheel of the gasoline motor drives the generator, which supplies current to the electric motor which propels the car.

There are but two foot pedals, one to the left for the brake and another for the accelerator. It is impossible to kill the engine without actually shutting off the ignition, and it is impossible to start with a jerk. Even though the accelerator is jammed quickly to the floor board, the pick up will be smooth and gradual. When driving the chauffeur can keep both hands on the wheel and his eyes on the road at all times.

The gas engine of the car is of standard make and was not altered in any way. By stepping on the accelerator the gas engine is speeded up as in any car, and the increased speed turns over the generator at a higher rate and a proportionately stronger current is fed to the electric motor, resulting in greater speed for the car. This arrangement entirely eliminates jerky starts common to clutch and gear transmissions.

  1. Hirudinea says: October 19, 20122:44 pm

    It’s a hybrid without the batteries.

  2. Just Old Al says: October 19, 20124:05 pm

    More like a diesel-electric locomotive. Entirely feasible and practical, and really kind of a neat idea.

  3. Hirudinea says: October 21, 20121:17 pm

    @ Just Old Al – Yep it is a neat idea, and is the generator really heavier than a transmission? Plus the fact that the engine can be kept in the best power band for better efficiency.

  4. Toronto says: October 21, 20126:54 pm

    Hiru – A “constant speed” motor/generator needs some way to smooth out / store the energy, like a giant capacitor or a battery bank.

    BTW ever seen the ‘toaster’ on top of many locomotives? They dump the electric braking energy as heat out the top. It’s no more wasteful than mechanical wheel brakes, energy-wise.

  5. JMyint says: October 22, 201210:32 am

    It IS a hybrid. This is a series hybrid, probably far more efficient than the parallel hybrids of today. A friend of my dad built a series hybrid out of a Fiat back in the 60s. He claimed he got 70 to 80 miles per gallon out of it.

  6. Mike Brown says: October 22, 201210:52 am

    I saw this car in 2007 in a collection in Tarpon Springs, Florida. It was labeled as a “1930 Rauch-Lang” – a collaboration between three companies: General Electric (for the power plant), Rauch-Lang (body and overall development) and Stearns-Knight (chassis and running gear).

    According to the sign next to the car when I saw it, “Colonel Green (a phony title) was a six foot four inch, three hundred pound, eccentric, one-legged son who blithely tossed away three million a year on yachts, coils, stamps, jewels, orchard culture, women and Texas politics. … Green was one of the largest stockholders in GE and pressured GE to participate in the building of his automobile.” Green invested over a million (1930) dollars in the car. It is (or, at least was in 2007) in the Al Wiseman collection in Tarpon Springs.

    For a picture of the car, see:…

  7. Hirudinea says: October 22, 201212:16 pm

    @ Toronto – Never knew that about “toasters”, neat. But it does show that today’s Hybrids, with the transmission, etc. are wasteful.

  8. DrewE says: October 22, 20121:22 pm

    @Hirudinea – The generator/motor combination is probably heavier than a modern transmission (as it probably was when this was built, for that matter). A parallel hybrid should be lighter overall; the generator, motor, and engine all can be smaller for the same maximum power output at the wheels, though the weight savings is partly offset by the addition of a gearbox of some sort.

    This series arrangement does have some merit, but it’s not really much different here in overall effect than a decent CVT, and probably not much different in overall mechanical efficiency. Adding some sort of electrical storage device (a battery) could help improve the operational efficiency a fair bit, at least with today’s control technologies, to form a “proper” gas/electric hybrid; that would have been quite hard to do effectively in 1930, I suspect.

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