The name Porsche has been associated with pioneering automotive engineering innovations since the beginning of the last century. In 1900 Prof. Ferdinand Porsche unveiled his Lohner Porsche, an electric car with wheel-hub motors driving the front wheels. Soon after, this car featured all-wheel drive and four-wheel brakes, another world first. A highlight of his early years as an automotive designer was the Lohner-Porsche Semper Vivus that went down in history 111 years ago as the first functional hybrid car.
Porsche’s Semper Vivus (Always Alive) recreation is a tribute to Prof. Porsche’s visionary invention. The fully functional Semper Vivus replica, based on original drawings and exhaustive research, is a collaborative effort between Porsche Engineering and Karosseriebau Drescher, a coachbuilding company based in Hinterzarten in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany.
Prof. Ferdinand Porsche was busy designing and developing his cars as early as 1896. The first fruit of his endeavors was an electric vehicle known as the Lohner-Porsche. It was driven by steered wheel-hub motors, and it caused a sensation at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900. This was soon followed by an even more impressive example of Prof. Porsche innovative spirit. A racing car boasting four wheel-hub electric motors became the world’s first all-wheel drive passenger car and marked the automotive engineering debut of four-wheel brakes. No less visionary was Prof. Porsche’s next idea; in 1900 he combined his battery-powered wheel hub drive with a petrol engine, thus creating the serial hybrid drive principle.
Prof. Porsche had entered uncharted territory with the Semper Vivus, the world’s first functional, full-hybrid car. In this vehicle, two generators paired with petrol engines formed a single charging unit, simultaneously supplying electricity to wheel-hub motors and batteries. In autumn 1900, Prof. Porsche set to work on a first prototype with petrol-electric hybrid drive. Presumably he based the world’s full hybrid car on a conversion of his electric racing vehicle from the Semmering-Bergrennen race. To this end he combined his electrical wheel-hub motors with two combustion engines and no mechanical connection whatsoever to a drive axle. Instead, they each drove an electric generator supplying both the wheel-hub motors and accumulators with electricity. This was the birth of serial hybrid drive. As a full hybrid concept, the Semper Vivus was also able to cover longer distances purely on battery power until the combustion engine had to be engaged to recharge the batteries.