Electric Vehicles News
Moving the Future Green
Top News Archives Research
Press Releases Classified Ads Coming Attractions

Your source for 
news and information
about all types of 
 electric vehicles.

R.M. Owen and Company - Owen Magnetic

Owen Magnetic

This 1921 Owen Magnetic Model 60 Touring uses a gasoline engine to run a generator that supplies electric power to motors mounted in each of the rear wheels.

The Owen Magnetic was a brand of luxury automobile manufactured between 1915 and 1922, and was notable for its use of an electromagnetic transmission. 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, Cleveland, Ohio between 1916 and 1919 and finally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1920 and 1921.

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. Walter C. Baker, of Cleveland Ohio, owned the patents on the Entz transmission thus each of the 250 Owen Magnetic automobile produced in New York were built under license.

While the cars were powered by a six-cylinder engine, power for the wheels was based upon the same electromagnetic principle that turned the propeller of the U.S.S. Battleship 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. Electrical 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."

Jay Leno (Jay Leno's Garage) comments:

I own what can be considered an ancestor of today's hybrids, an Owen Magnetic. First seen at the auto show in New York City in 1915 — just about the time that Baker Electric gave it up — the Owen Magnetic has a gas engine and an electric generator.

This drivetrain was the brainchild of George Westinghouse. The engine powers the generator, which creates a large magnetic force field between the engine and drivewheels. There's no mechanical transmission. The driver moves a rheostat through four quadrants — a lot easier than shifting, and grinding, the straight-cut gears of the day — and the car moves ahead progressively, giving occupants that odd feeling you get when you try to push similar-pole magnets against each other. Both Enrico Caruso and John McCormack drove Owen Magnetics.

Owens were expensive and really sophisticated. They had an advanced, 24-volt electrical system when most cars had only 6 volts. And Owen Magnetics had a black box called "the brain." There's a big warning label right on it that reads, "Do not attempt to fix this or alter it. Only the factory can do this." Of course, the factories were located in Cleveland and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. That was a big help. And so the Owen Magnetic failed in 1921.

The car became as famous as the company's clientele which included Enrico Caruso and John McCormack. Owen Magnetics were advertised as "The Car of a Thousand Speeds"

In December 1915, the concern was moved to Cleveland when the R.M. Owen Company joined Walter Baker (of Baker Motor Vehicle) and the Rauch & Lang concern. The Baker Electric Car company would produce the car, Rauch and Lang would build the coachwork. Because of the combined resources, the 1916 Owen Magnetic increased its model range for 1916 model year, with prices in the $3,000 to $6,000 dollar range. Production continued through 1918 when Baker shifted its focus to War goods manufacturing.

The company reorganized as the Owen Magnetic Motor Car Company of Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania and resumed production, this time with an order for 500 vehicles from Crown Limited of Great Britain. Under the terms of the agreement, the cars were named Crown Magnetic, however before the order could be fulfilled, Owen Magnetic filed for receivership.

The Woods Dual Power car manufactured by the Woods Motor Company in Chicago also used the Entz transmission. The Woods car was similar in many ways to today’s hybrids. It used both a gasoline engine and electric motors to propel the wheels and utilized braking to recharge the batteries.


Jay Leno's Garage (video) The focus of the segment is the Chevrolet Volt but a 1916 Owen Magnetic is shown and the similarity of the propulsion system is noted.

Some extracts from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. See Terms of Use for details.