March 2, 2011
Hybrids may seem like newfangled contraptions that have only just appeared on the car scene in the last decade, but the reality is they’ve been around for almost as long as the automobile. To prove that fact, Porsche has unveiled the result of four years of painstaking reproduction, bringing back to life a 111 year-old hybrid for the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.
Called the Semper Vivus–meaning ‘Always Alive’ in Latin–the vehicle is a far cry from today’s modern hybrids, but in 1900 it was, in fact, the world’s first fully functioning hybrid electric car. The result of Ferdinand Porsche’s significant vehicular prowess, the Semper Vivus included some very advanced components for its time.
Featuring dual in-wheel electric hub motors mated to a combustion engine, top speed isn’t quite what you associate with the Porsche name these days, but it is on par with vehicles of its day. This is especially impressive given that it’s lugging around about 4,000 pounds of lead-acid batteries.
As evident in the Porsche-produced video, the Semper Vivus reproduction is as fully functioning a vehicle as its namesake was and comes at the same time as Porsche is announcing a further foray into the world of hybrids with the Panamera S Hybrid luxury sports sedan–its second production hybrid. Porsche is clearly using the Semper Vivus as a way to indicate hybrids aren’t a new concept to the company.
The Semper Vivus project was undertaken by the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, and after the 2011 Geneva Motor Show will be placed on permanent display at the museum.
NICK CHAMBERS is a "next generation" car enthusiast, recognized for his green automotive coverage in Gas 2.0, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, HybridCars.com and PluginCars.com. In addition, he’s been syndicated in Matter Network, AP and Reuters.