Victor Wouk

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Victor Wouk
Born (1919-04-27)April 27, 1919
New York, NY
Died May 19, 2005(2005-05-19) (aged 86)
New York, NY
Citizenship United States
Fields Electrical Engineer
Institutions Westinghouse
Alma mater California Institute of Technology, Columbia University
Known for Pioneer in the development of electric and hybrid vehicles

Victor Wouk (/ˈwk/; April 27, 1919 – May 19, 2005) was an American scientist. He was the pioneer in the development of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Early life[edit]

Victor Wouk, the brother of writer Herman Wouk, was born in New York City in 1919. He earned a bachelor's degree from Columbia University in 1939, and graduated in 1942 as PhD from the California Institute of Technology with a thesis titled Static electricity generated during the distribution of gasoline.


Wouk organized a company, Beta Electric, and in 1956, sold it only to form a new one, the Electronic Energy Conversion Corporation (EECC). In 1960, he designed smaller and higher-efficiency AC-to-DC converters. In 1962, Wouk was noticed by Russell Feldmann, president of the National Union Electric Company and one of the founders of Motorola, who had Renault Dauphines converted to electric power (known as Henney Kilowatt cars), and was in need of an efficient speed controller for them. In 1963, Wouk sold EECC to Gulton Industries and continued his work with them. Because the domestic Big Three automakers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) had their own electric car programs, the much smaller American Motors Corporation (AMC) partnered with Gulton to develop a new battery based car using lithium and the advanced speed controller designed by Wouk.[1] The running prototype was a 1969 Rambler American station wagon converted from AMC's gasoline 290 cu in (4.8 L) V8 engine, to an all electric car.[2] Power consisted of 160 Gulton nickel–cadmium batteries, each rated at 75 ampere-hours, and controlled through Wouk designed electronics.[3][4] It had good acceleration, but relying on batteries alone limited the car's range.[5]

The experiments with the Rambler American convinced Wouk that battery problems were not going to be solved easily to satisfy consumers. He started to design a system that would combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor for motive power. He successfully converted a Buick Skylark vehicle with a 20-kilowatt direct-current electric motor and an RX-2 Mazda rotary engine. This vehicle was tested at the Environmental Protection Agency's emissions-testing laboratories in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it obtained more than twice the fuel economy of the vehicle before it was converted. Furthermore, the vehicle's emission rates were only about 9 percent of those of a gasoline powered car from that era.[6] This pioneering work gained Wouk the nickname of the grandfather of electric and hybrid vehicles in the United States.[1] Even though they were not a new idea, hybrid vehicles would in fact only appear on the market by the late 1990s. Wouk was also actively involved in the field of electric vehicle standardization, participating in relevant technical committees such as the IEC TC69 and the ISO TC22 SC21 on electric vehicles. He remained an active member of these committees until the early 2000s.

Victor Wouk died on May 19, 2005, in his New York home. He was survived by his wife Joy, and sons Jonathan and Jordan.

The archives of Victor Wouk are kept at Caltech.[7]


  1. ^ a b Goodstein, Judith (2004). "Godfather of the Hybrid" (PDF). Engineering & Science (California Institute of Technology). LXVII (3): 22–23. ISSN 0013-7812. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  2. ^ Goodstein, Judith R. (2004). "Interview with Victor Wouk" (PDF). Caltech Archives. pp. 51–52. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  3. ^ "An Electronic Stationwagon". Conference Proceedings. Electric Vehicle Council. 5–7 November 1969. p. 421. OCLC 751733. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  4. ^ Wouk, Victor; Seiger, Harvey N. (1969). "Design of electronic automobile employing nickel-cadmium batteries". Society of Automotive Engineers Journal 77: 115. doi:10.4271/690454. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  5. ^ Callery, Sean (2009). Victor Wouk: the father of the hybrid car. Crabtree. p. 26. ISBN 9780778746645. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  6. ^ "The Great Hybrid Car Cover-up of '74". Archived from the original on 2006-11-28. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  7. ^ The Papers of Victor Wouk "The Papers of Victor Wouk" Check |url= value (help). Caltech. 

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