The hybrid Tatra is 60 years ahead of the Toyota Prius.


The long-awaited unique thing, the Slovenská strela railway express, returned to the Tatra Museum in Kopřivnice on Thursday. Since 1936, passengers on the route from Bratislava have been driving at speeds of 130 km / h and, thanks to the hybrid drive, they have managed it extremely efficiently. It belongs to the top machines of interwar Czechoslovakia and now, after a three-year renovation, it has received a dignified presentation in the newly built pavilion.

Many of us remember the Slovak shot as an inaccessible, run-down, and rusting wagon standing under a makeshift shelter in front of the museum entrance. She could hardly get the attention of people who didn't know her story beforehand. Initiated fans, on the other hand, could only dream of the level at which similarly important monuments are exhibited abroad.

The Tatra jewel has been spending time under the shelter since 1966, when the state railways handed it over to Kopřivnice in a rather utilized state. The communist regime, which despised the legacy of the First Republic, did not give him much respect, but in the new conditions, it was difficult for a carmaker, which had had enough of its problems, to find money to maintain veterans.

Now, this debt is finally repaid to our ancestors and it must be said that it was not a cheap payment. The three-year renovation and construction of the new pavilion of the museum depository totaled 118 million crowns. Of this, almost eighty million came from European funds. Another almost forty million already reflects the rediscovered prosperity of Tatra Trucks, which is also completing the truck museum.

The story of the Slovak missile is typical of the 1930s when the demands for a fast connection between large cities increased in developed Europe. An example was the German flying unit Hamburg Flying Hamburg, which from 1933 provided connections from Hamburg to Berlin at an average speed of 127 km / h.

The Slovak missile began transporting passengers on the line from Bratislava to Prague with a stop in Brno in July 1936. Where the tracks allowed, it raced at cruising speeds of 130 km / h. It covered less than 400 kilometers in four hours and eighteen minutes, ie an average of over 90 km / h. The net driving time was 30 minutes shorter than with the steam express. In addition, he stopped in Břeclav and Choceň, so in reality, Strela arrived in Prague half an hour earlier.

It was said that the timetable was set so that Slovak deputies could come to the morning of the parliament, which began at ten o'clock. All the comfort of the time was available to passengers, including a steward and a hot kitchen. However, the ticket also cost exactly one hundred crowns. Compared to the then average salary of CZK 750, it was like today and four and a half thousand.

As was the custom at the time, state-of-the-art technology also received an aesthetically pleasing coat. The development was managed by chief designer Hans Ledwinka, known for his work on aerodynamic personal models of the Tatras. The appearance of the car, the color, and the concept of the interior was designed by the architect Vladimír Grégr, a large plastic emblem of the republic on the bow by the academic sculptor Jan Nušl.

What the Slovak missile used to drive all the then high-speed trains with an internal combustion engine was the combined electromechanical arrangement of the drive. The piston engine has a limited range of working speeds, so it would either have to gradually shift several gears as a passenger car, which at that time could not be solved comfortably or drive only a dynamo, which would permanently power the electric motors at the wheels.

This system was used most often at that time and can still be found in diesel-electric locomotives. However, its disadvantage is that neither the combustion nor the electric work with 100% efficiency, and when we leave them in tandem, the losses add up all the way.

The designer and inventor from Vsetín, Moravian Edison Josef Sousedík, ingeniously bypassed this vice. He designed a combined drive for the Tatra, which transmitted electricity electrically only 80 km / h, so it started quickly, smoothly, and without shocks. At higher speeds, it switched to direct mechanical engagement. As many as 18% of losses in the electrical circuit were eliminated and fuel consumption decreased proportionally.

Hybrid cars today use similar tricks to combine gasoline with electricity and use the maximum efficiency of both engines. The first of them, the Toyota Prius, was born more than sixty years after the Slovak missile.

Comparisons at the time showed that its operation per person per kilometer was based on less than half the cost of a steam train, but it was also significantly cheaper than other engine units of its time.

Of course, the most efficient would be to electrify the line to Bratislava. However, the whole of Europe did not do so much until after the war, and the line from Prague via Česká Třebová to Brno was not fully electrified even in the 1990s.

Free Czechoslovakia enjoyed the fun with the Slovak bullet only briefly. Less than three years later, they were interrupted by the protectorate and the war. After that, the development set out for more popular, cheaper and also more mass transport.

Then the disadvantage of the Slovak missile became apparent, the capacity of 72 seats was low and the car was not ready to be connected in tandem or longer sets. By the way, this is confirmed by the absence of full-fledged telescopic bumpers, contributing to the elegance and purity of the design.

In 1936, Tatra produced two cars, which alternated during normal operation. After the war, they served for a short time on the lines to Ostrava or Karlovy Vary and in the early fifties were included in the railway government squadron to transport state visits. The first car burned down in 1960 and had to be scrapped, so just renovated with the number 002, it is the only one of its kind.

Coincidentally, the ceremonial arrival to the new depository pavilion took place during the week when the museums and exhibitions reopened. In the meantime, it is possible to see the car from behind the glass from the outside.

The exhibition in Kopřivnice has three parts. Historic passenger cars can be found in the Kopřivnice Technical Museum, managed by a public benefit company. The pavilion with the Slovak Bullet belongs to the Tatra Trucks museum. Its main part will be the just-completed truck exhibition, which will open in the autumn.

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