Sherlock Holmes described electricity as “the high priestess of false security” and that aptly describes the wonder of how this Owen Magnetic generates electricity using a gas engine.
The Owen Magnetic was a pioneering American brand of hybrid electric luxury automobile manufactured between 1915 and 1922. Car models of the brand were notable for their use of an electromagnetic transmission and were early examples of an electric series hybrid drivetrain. The manufacture of the car was sponsored by R.M. Owen & Company of New York, New York. The car was built in New York City in 1915, in Cleveland, Ohio, between 1916 and 1919 and finally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1920 and 1921.
While the cars were powered by a six-cylinder engine, power for the wheels was based upon the same electromagnetic principle that propelled the Battleship U.S.S. New Mexico.
Automobile author Henry B. Lent described the drive mechanism thus:The drive mechanism had no direct connection between the engine and the rear wheels. Instead of a flywheel, a generator and a horseshoe shaped magnet were attached to the rear of the engine’s crank shaft. On the forward end of the car’s drive shaft, was an electric motor with an armature fitted into an air space inside the whirling magnet. Electric current, transmitted by the engine’s generator and magnet attached to the armature of the electrical motor, providing the energy to turn the drive shaft and propel the engine’s rear wheels. Speed for the car was controlled by a small lever adjacent to the steering wheel.
The first Owen Magnetic was introduced at the 1915 New York auto show when Justus B. Entz‘s electric transmission was fitted to the Owen automobile: “R.M. Owen have leased the large new three story fireproof building at the corner of Fifth avenue and One Hundred and Forty-second street, New York, where they will build the new Owen Magnetic motor cars.” Walter C. Baker, of Cleveland, Ohio, owned the patents on the Entz transmission, thus each of the 250 Owen Magnetic automobiles produced in New York was built under license. The former Owen plant still exists and is presently a self-storage facility.