April 27, 1919 - May 19, 2005
Victor Wouk was an American engineer and scientist, the pioneer in the development of electric and hybrid vehicles.
Victor Wouk – «the grandfather of electric and hybrid vehicles in the United States»
Victor Wouk, the brother of the famous WWII writer Herman Wouk, was born in New York City in 1919, to the Jewish family immigrated to the United States from Minsk (then Russian Empire, now - Belarus).
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 far-reaching thesis titled "Static electricity generated during the distribution of gasoline"!
Wouk founded his own company Beta Electric, and in 1956, sold it only to form a new one, the Electronic Energy Conversion Corporation (EECC). In 1962, Wouk was noticed for his work on ultra-efficient energy converters by Russell Feldmann, president of the National Union Electric Company and one of the founders of Motorola, who had a lineup of Renault Dauphines converted to electric power - the famous Henney Kilowatt cars - and needed an efficient speed controller for them. In 1963, Wouk sold EECC to Gulton Industries, but continued to work for 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 lithium battery based car and the advanced speed controller designed by Wouk.
In 1969 the first plug-in electric car, as it is known today, the Rambler American station wagon, was born! The vehicle boasted of excellent acceleration properties, but relying on batteries alone limited its range.
The experiments with the Rambler American convinced Wouk that battery problems would scare away the consumer, and since they could not be solved any time soon, he started to work on a system that would combine an internal combustion engine with an electric motor. He successfully converted a Buick Skylark vehicle with a 20-kilowatt direct-current electric motor and an RX-2 Mazda rotary engine. The vehicle was tested at the Environmental Protection Agency's emissions-testing laboratories where it obtained more than double the fuel economy! Furthermore, the vehicle's emission rates were only about one tenth of those of a typical gasoline powered car from that era.
This pioneering work gained Wouk the nickname of the grandfather of electric and hybrid vehicles in the United States.
Wouk was also actively involved in the field of electric vehicle standardization, participating in various 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.
Wouk, Victor (1997-09-16). "Hybrid Electric Vehicles". Scientific American: 70–74.