The first evolution in American hybrid cars started after Ferdinand Porsche introduced the world's first hybrid car, the Lohner-Porsche petrol-electric "Mixte", also known as Mixtewagen.
Lohner-Porsche 1902 Mixtewagen
Soon after, in November 23 of 1905, American engineer H. Piper filed for a patent on a hybrid vehicle design.
Similarly to Porsche's design, Piper's plans used an electric motor combined with a gasoline engine.
From the introduction of the first hybrid car in 1902 to 1920, thousands of hybrid cars were made.
For example, in the early 1900s, General Electric built a hybrid with a four-cylinder gasoline engine.
Another American company, Woods Motor Vehicle Company, was famous for developing the 1917 Woods Dual Power, which was a parallel hybrid with a four-cylinder gasoline engine.
You can see the Woods hybrid car on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
Another U.S. firm, the Walker Vehicle Company, built gasoline-electric trucks, from around 1918 onwards.
However, the early hybrid technology couldn't compete with more powerful gasoline engines, or the efficient manufacturing lines of Ford, which enabled gasoline using cars' prices to come down.
Between 1920s and early 1970s, there was little commercial production on hybrid cars.
History of Hybrid Cars in America - 1970s to 1980s
The situation for hybrid cars changed during the early to mid-1970s, as oil prices surged, causing a worldwide economic crisis.
Because of the oil crisis, motor manufacturers took a second look on the alternative fuels and started several research projects.
Also the government participated in these efforts, and the US Congress passed the Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Research and Development Act, to enhance this development.
These research projects resulted in short-lived enthusiasm for electric cars (as oil prices decreased again), but they also resulted in new conventional cars being more fuel efficient.
History of Hybrid Cars in America - 1990s to 2000s
As oil related concerns came to surface again in the early 1990s (with the Gulf War), the research and development for hybrid car technology was stepped up.
Again, government played a significant role in this development.
Clinton administration of 1993 announced the formation of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) consortium, which includes the Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, and DaimlerChrysler)and several hundred smaller technical firms.
In 2003, the Bush administration's budget proposal for FY 2003 directed that PNGV be transferred to Department of Energy as the FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies (FCVT) Program, and the program refocused on long-term research and development in fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen infrastructures and technologies.
By 1998, the air quality in California had deteriorated so much that the state introduced legislation that required 2% of the vehicles sold in that state to be "zero-emission", and by 2003 10% would be zero-emission vehicles.
In fact, Californian legislation has been seen by many as the world's most advanced legislation concerning the transformation into alternative cars and fuel sources.
However, the 1998 legislation was overturned as the technological framework was not ready for such demands, but the 2003 mandate stayed. The legislation has been complemented since by several initiatives.
In year 1999, Japanese car manufacturer Honda introduced the Honda Insight in the U.S. and Toyota followed soon after with the Toyota Prius.
The popularity of these two models turned out to be much bigger than expected, which in turn made the American car manufacturers, again, step up their efforts to develop their own hybrid car technology.
For example, GM and DaimlerChrysler announced a joint project to develop hybrid car engines in December 2004. The results of those efforts are expected no sooner than 2007.
In the meantime, U.S. car manufacturers, such as Ford, have been licensing hybrid car technology from the Japanese manufacturers.