Victor Wouk was an American scientist. He was the pioneer in the development of electric and hybrid vehicles.
Early Life & his Research Career
Victor Wouk was born in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1919. A graduate of Columbia University, he received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 1942. After working for Westinghouse in World War II, he founded the Beta Electric Corporation, building it into a leading source of high-voltage electrical supplies before selling the company in 1956.
His interest in alternative power sources for automobiles began in 1962, when a founder of Motorola asked him for advice on an electric car he had developed. Dr. Wouk found that car impractical, as its batteries were not big enough to allow it to travel very far or very fast, but he did see the potential of batteries as a supplemental power source, and began working on ideas for a hybrid for American Motors.
Dr. Wouk continued his advocacy of hybrid technology after the E.P.A.'s rejection of his Skylark design. He also did research into the use of semiconductors in electric vehicles.
The first hybrid to be offered to consumers, the Toyota Prius, appeared in 1997. It is based on principles similar to Dr. Wouk's, and he leased one when it became available in the United States as a 2001 model.