A meticulous recreation of the first-ever gasoline/electric hybrid car, the 1900 Porsche Semper Vivus (Always Alive) took its place on the stand in Geneva along side of the new 2012 Panamera S Hybrid. This four-year labor of love by a team of in-house craftsmen at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart is a fully functional clone of the original that incorporated revolutionary wheel motors designed by a brilliant young engineer named Ferdinand Porsche some 111 years ago. A serial hybrid, the hub-drive motors in each front wheel of the Semper Vivus are powered by a 44-cell lead-acid battery pack that’s kept charged using two on-board generators spun by a pair of watercooled 2.5-horsepower De Dion Bouton gasoline engines. Each motor/generator operates independently and can produce about 2.7 horsepower. The electricity produced (20 amps at 90 volts) gets fed directly to the wheel motors with any extra sent to replenish the battery. As an added bonus, reversing the polarity in the motors allows them to act as starters for the gasoline engines.
The seminal Semper Vivus was a gas/electric evolution of the Lohner-Porsche electric car that was first displayed at the 1900 World Exposition in Paris and later yielded various production offshoots that were sold from 1902-1906. After its Geneva debut, the Porsche Semper Vivus is slated to become part of the permanent collection at the Porsche Museum.