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Tally-ho! Earth's First Hybrid Goes For A Spin

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On: Wed, May 4, 2011 at 1:37PM | By: Chris Salamone

Tally-ho! Earth's First Hybrid Goes For A Spin

Over the years Porsche has stood out as a company which not only produces exceptional vehicles, but as a company that also turns a profit with regularity. But the claims to fame don’t stop there. In 1900 Porsche manufactured the first functional hybrid car ever built: the Semper Vivus. Take that Prius! Yes, a full one hundred years before Toyota rolled out with the Prius the Semper Vivus roamed the concrete jungles of yesterday, err… minus the concrete. Recently Porsche decided to remind the world of their EV achievement by taking the Semper Vivus out for a spin.

Looking through the videos it’s hard to imagine driving one of these. The vehicle’s handling appears incredibly unwieldy, as demonstrated by a driver who is barely able to make the slightest turn despite monstrous effort. In addition to tricky maneuvering, the Porsche Semper Vivus is without doors! For a car whose name literally translates to ‘always moving’, the driver should be concerned he won’t be moving anymore after an accident. Modern consensus is that doors are somewhat important for safety. At the same time, who can blame them? In 1900 cars were the new kids on the block, designed to resemble the then more popular method of transportation—horse and carriage.

This hybrid is powered by two 2.5hp combustion engines which in turn drive two electric motors found in the front wheels. But why did Porsche switch to combustion engines if this type of technology existed at the turn of the 20thcentury? Batteries. In order to keep electric motors running, the vehicle required more and more bulky antique batteries. Think about how far battery technology has come in your lifetime, and then try to picture a century-old battery operating a motor vehicle. Porsche simply couldn’t put enough batteries in their vehicles to power these hybrids over long hauls. The hybrids of 1900 could travel only short distances and more batteries equaled more weight, cutting possible charge times even further.

Even so, the Semper Vivus really stands for the point that Porsche dreams big, thinks through their designs, and makes cars with rational objectives. When the company determined that hybrids could be outperformed by combustion engines, Porsche switched to combustion and made some of the most iconic cars of the 20th century. Now that battery technology has taken leaps and bounds perhaps Porsche will take a shot at perfecting the hybrid automaker industry as well. After all, the 918 Spyder, Porsche’s first publicly available hybrid sports car, is coming soon!

Photo Gallery (click a thumbnail to enlarge)


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