Father of Hybrid Engine is an American

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Alex Severinsky 2008 Clark School Innovation Hall of Fame Inductee

Alex SeverinskyWhen you think of a hybrid engine, likely the first thing that comes to mind is the Toyota Prius or Honda Insight, two of the most memorable model names featuring this type of technology. But, what you might not know is that hybrid technology was invented by an American, a Soviet immigrant who launched his inventions at the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park.

Now, the university is planning to honor Severinsky by inducting him into the Clark School Innovation Hall of Fame on October 30th. For Severinsky the honor underscores what many people fleeing aggression have discovered: the United States is truly a land of opportunity.

From Bread Lines to Gas Lines

Arriving in the US in 1978 as a refugee, Severinsky found his adopted country in the middle of a national oil crisis of that era, a problem he believed he could help resolve. “I’d just come from bread lines and now I was in gas lines,” says Severinsky. He decided to tackle the problem of gasoline consumption.

With a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Moscow’s Institute for Precision Measurements in Radioelectronics and Physics, Severinsky started analyzing the Periodic Table, searching for possible alternatives to internal combustion. In his study he concluded that a fully-electric vehicle would never be practical, but an electric/internal combustion hybrid could work.

From there, he took a job in power electronic engineering, where he was able to engross himself in the field of high-voltage semiconductors that was critical to his ideas for a hybrid powerplant.

Hyperdrive and Hybrid Technology

Beginning in 1992, Severinsky began filing numerous patents for the Hyperdrive power train system. He received additional help from Mtech in arranging a meeting with staff from the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Lockheed Martin.

He made a physical prototype of his technology and, on October 14, 1999, demonstrated the PAICE system in Detroit. Severinsky proved that the system could effectively reduce the gas consumption of a Cadillac Coup de Ville by half in city driving while retaining its driving performance.

Engineers at U.S. and Japanese automakers were interested in Severinsky’s invention, but top management resisted. A staff engineer at Toyota later developed the same idea as Severinsky for hybrids. When the Toyota Prius was introduced, Severinsky fought to protect his patent rights and after a drawn out legal battle with Toyota, he won the civil case in 2005.

Alex Severinsky will be inducted into the Innovation Hall of Fame at a Clark School ceremony on October 30, 2008. The ceremony will be immediately followed by the Charles and Helen White Symposium on Engineering Innovation, “Intellectual Property: How Well Does the System Protect the Individual Innovator?”

(Source: A. James Clark School of Engineering)


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Categories: Academics