The Toyota Prius may have popularized the concept, but hybrid cars existed long before the now-ubiquitous Toyota hatchback. The Owen Magnetic featured on this episode of Jay Leno’s Garage dates to 1916—about 80 years before the Prius launched.
It’s important to remember that, at the turn of the 20th century, battery-electric cars were quite common. But just like today, they were limited by range and charging infrastructure. The Owen Magnetic was pitched as an electric car with a range-extending gasoline generator—not unlike the former Chevrolet Volt or the BMW i3 REx.
The car is a series hybrid, with the internal-combustion engine acting exclusively as a generator for an electric motor, which actually drives the wheels, rather than a parallel hybrid, like most modern hybrid cars.
The Buda inline-6 engine isn’t…