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Victor Wouk Oral History Interview with Judith R. Goodstein

 Digital Record
Identifier: 2016-02-17-000169


  • Other: 2016 February 17


This wide-ranging interview in May 2004 with the engineer and hybrid-automobile pioneer Victor Wouk begins with his recollections of his graduate work in electrical engineering at Caltech (1939-1942), after receiving his bachelor's degree from Columbia. Includes recollections of Robert A. Millikan, Royal Sorensen, William H. Pickering, William R. Smythe, Frederick C. Lindvall, and others. He recalls his wartime work at the Westinghouse Research Laboratories in Pittsburgh on the ignitron and the separation of uranium isotopes. Also recalls his early interest in television and work for North American Philips in Tarrytown, NY. Forms the Electronic Energy Conversion Corp. in 1959 to manufacture DC power units. Recalls work for Motorola founder Russell Feldman, who in the early 1960s asked him to design a practical electrically powered car; eventually, in consultation with Lee A. DuBridge and others at Caltech, Wouk determined that a hybrid vehicle, using both electric power and traditional combustion, was a better alternative. Studies were revealing the detrimental effects of smog in the nation’s cities, and in 1970 the Clean Air Act passed. Wouk had meanwhile sold the Electronic Energy Conversion Corp. to Gulton Industries and gone to work for them; he left, along with Gulton’s Charles Rosen, to form a new company, Petro-Electric Motors, to develop a hybrid vehicle for the Federal Clean Car Incentive Program in the early 1970s. He recalls in detail their travails and eventual success, and comments on the opposition of Eric Stork at the Environmental Protection Agency to the hybrid idea, which finally resulted in rejection of his model. He concludes the interview by commenting on the recent history, current popularity, and future of hybrid cars, and on his ideas about regenerative braking.

Repository Details

Part of the California Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections Repository

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