Hybrid cars are getting more and more popular at present days, but probably there are not many people who know that the first hybrid car was built 112 years ago. It was called Lohner-Porsche Semper Vivus and it was developed and built by Ferdinand Porsche in 1900.
Prof. Ferdinand Porsche began the development of his cars in 1896. His first creation was an electric vehicle known as the Lohner-Porsche. It was powered by steered wheel-hub motors, it was presented at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900 and caused a sensation. This was followed by a racing car with four wheel-hub electric motors propulsion, which became the world’s first all-wheel drive passenger car and marked the automotive engineering debut of four-wheel brakes. In 1900 Prof. Porsche combined his battery-powered wheel hub drive with petroleum engines, thus creating the serial hybrid drive principle.
The professor combined his electrical wheel-hub motors with two combustion engines and without mechanical connection to a drive axle. Instead, they each power an electric generator supplying both the wheel-hub motors and accumulators with electricity. 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 start recharging the batteries.
In order to open space for a petrol engine and reduce some weight, Prof. Porsche reduced the number of cells in the accumulator and from 74 originally their number became 44 cells. In the middle of the vehicle he installed two water-cooled 3.5 PS (2.6 kW) DeDion Bouton petrol engines – driving two generators to create electricity – each producing 2.5 hp (1.84 kW). Both engines operated independently, each delivering 20 amperes and 90 volts. The electricity generated by the dynamos initially flowed to the wheel-hub motors, with the additional power being sent to the batteries. It was also possible to use the generators as electric starter motors for the petrol engines by reversing the direction of rotation.