Porsche chose the Geneva Auto Show to highlight both their very first hybrid vehicle (the Semper Vivus) and their latest hybrid concept, the 918 RSR. As different as the two vehicles are, both share the original vision of Ferdinand Porsche: to create the lightest, most efficient vehicles in the world.
The original Semper Vivus dates back to 1901, and was created by Porsche to overcome the excessive weight of lead-acid battery powered electric vehicles. Using a Daimler internal combustion engine to drive a generator supplying power to the hub-mounted front wheel motors, Porsche created the very first series hybrid automobile. Though shown in two wheel drive form here, four wheel drive variants were also built using supplemental rear hub mounted motors. The cars were capable of speeds up to 35 miles per hour, and some 300 Lohner-Porsche cars were sold before production ceased in 1906. Video below.
Porsche’s 918 RSR race car prototype uses a completely different propulsion technology. A parallel hybrid, the 918 RSR uses a 563 horsepower gasoline fueled V8 to power the rear wheels. The front wheels each get a 102 horsepower electric motor, powered by energy from a flywheel accumulator. When the system is fully charged, the electric motors can receive up to eight seconds worth of full power, giving the car a temporary boost to 767 horsepower. The KERS type system has already been race-proven in the Porsche 911 GT3 RS Hybrid, but Porsche has yet to release details on where or when the 918 RSR will see action.