Lohner-Porsche Semper Vivus, The First Hybrid Car

Hybrid cars and electric cars are actually not at all a new idea. In the first decade of the automobile, history shows that electricity was a big part of the early years. There were almost as many electric cars available to consumers in 1910 as there were gasoline powered ones.

The 1900 Lohner-Porsche Semper Vivus was built by Professor Ferdinand Porsche and co-workers at the Lohner Electric Company. It made its debut at the Paris Exposition in 1900. At the time Lohner told the press of Porsche, “He is very young, but he is a man with a big career before him. You will hear of him again”.

Lohner-Porsche Semper Vivus 5

The Semper Vivus had two generators each connected to a gasoline engine. The engine and generator combination charged the batteries and provided power to the electric hub motors simultaneously. While all cars of the era were difficult to drive by modern standards, steering the Semper Vivus was a workout. The front axle load was a hefty 2337 lbs. due to the large heavy un-sprung hub motors.

Ferdinand Porsche was instrumental in the development of the hub mounted motors. The design eliminated the need for a transmission. Subsequent models built between 1900 and 1902 boasted 12 hp and a 70 mile range. At the time it was determined that the hybrids weren’t cost effective for mass market production and were not pursued further by Ferdinand Porsche.

Semper Vivus 6

Porsche however recently reminded the world at the debut of their new Panamera S Hybrid that the company built the very first Hybrid car in the world, back in 1900. To celebrate this milestone the company has been quietly and painstakingly building a working replica of the “Semper Vivus” from early drawings and photographs.

The completely drivable and functioning Semper Vivus replica debuted at the New York Auto Show this spring. The collaborative effort between Porsche Engineering and German coach builder Karosseriebau Drescher began in 2007.

Great detail and attention was given not only to the visual details, but the mechanical operation and authenticity of the original. Since no surviving examples of the original existed for them to study, the project took on an enormous historical weight.

 

Their first move was exhaustive research in various archives throughout Europe. With several original shop drawings and many black and white photographs the team went to work in creating the replica you see here. As there was no functioning wheel hub motor in existence, technical details such as performance and range had to be resurrected and calculated from scratch.

The project took three years to complete building most of the parts but also finding some of the original bits for the gasoline engine.