Porsche Hybrid Video: Replica Coming to Geneva Motor Show

Toyota did not invent the hybrid car. In fact, the very first hybrid came to life 37 years before Toyota Motor Company was even founded.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ferdinand Porsche (who else?) came up with one of the first hybrids, and it was a race car. Porsche actually began by building pure battery electric vehicles, but 19th century battery technology prompted the addition of  internal combustion assistance. The result was a series hybrid not far removed in concept from today’s Chevrolet Volt.

The Lohner-Porsche Semper Vivus sounds like an infection, but was a car featuring a pair of hub motors driving the front wheels. Later variants included two more motors on the rear wheels to create the first all-wheel drive car. While a single example of the electric carriage survives today, none of the original hybrids exist.

For four years, technicians and craftsmen at the Porsche museum in Stuttgart having been working to re-create that first hybrid. Work has been painstaking, using surviving photos, drawings and information derived from the surviving EV as source material. The product of their efforts will be publicly revealed for the first time at the Geneva Motor Show next week alongside the new Panamera S hybrid.

So what did Toyota invent? The successful combination of ideas and hardware, strung together with modern technology that’s finally good enough to make the driving experience mostly seamless. They may have popularized the hell out of it, but the power-split parallel hybrid concept made so famous by the Prius was the work of a group of engineers from TRW who patented the idea back in the late 1960s. At that time prior to the advent of the nickel metal hydride battery, oil was so cheap that there wasn’t really much demand for the idea of a hybrid powertrain.

Toyota does deserve credit for was pulling all of the ideas together and developing a practical and reliable power-split transmission. By subsidizing the cost of those early Priuses, Toyota helped keep the idea going long enough to build some volume and drive down the cost of the system allowing it to be produced profitably. Hybrids still account for less than three percent of the U.S. auto market, but the price of crude is up and so is volatility. If that keeps up, hybrids will be selling out again.

Porsche Panamera S Hybrid Video: Luxury Goes Green

A week after teasing the announcement of a new production hybrid model at the Geneva Motor Show, Porsche has revealed the Panamera S Hybrid.  Everyone knew this hybrid GT was coming; Porsche told us as much when the Panamera debuted in 2009.

In fact, there really are no surprises about the hybrid-electric Panamera. The powertrain is basically the same found in the battery-assisted Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg. That means primary propulsion is provided by the sweet supercharged and direct-injected 3.0-liter V6 created by the Volkswagen Group. In the hybrid applications it generates 333 horsepower and a stout 325 pound-feet of torque.

Additional motivation is provided by a disk-shaped 46 hp electric motor that takes the place of the torque converter for the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.  A clutch on either side of the motor allows either blended gas-electric drive, pure electric drive or simple neutral coasting.  Electrical energy generated by the engine turning the motor or regenerative braking is stored in a nickel metal hydride battery pack  that sits under the trunk. Given the price of the Panamera, its odd that Porsche has opted for the older battery technology rather than the lithium ion pack that Audi is using for its upcoming Q5 hybrid. With Porsche’s continuous improvement philosophy, the battery will probably be updated within a year or two.

The motor-transmission configuration means that the motor is spinning at lower speeds  than the motors in integrated power-split hybrids like those from Toyota, Ford and General Motors. That means it can cruise in pure electric mode at speeds up to 53 mph. Oddly, that’s slower than the 80+ mph speeds possible with the Cayenne.

Aside from the powertrain configuration, the rest of the functionality is pretty much what you would expect from any strong hybrid system. That means automatic start-stop, electric boost and regenerative braking.  In addition to the drive system, Panamera hybrid buyers can also select new specially developed Michelin low rolling resistance tires.

On the European drive cycle, that all adds up to a combined average of 34.6 miles per U.S gallon, a mighty impressive number for such a large car that sprints to 60 mph in just 6.0 seconds.  Stick with real tires, and you’ll do a bit worse at only 33.1 mpg.  Results achieved on the EU drive cycle tend to be a bit more optimistic than EPA’s numbers so real world results will probably be closer to the mid-to-upper 20s.

The Panamera S Hybrid goes on sale in Europe in June of this year and comes to America in the fall with a base price of “just” $95,000. That makes it a bargain compared the Lexus LS600h, and the Porsche will actually be entertaining to drive, unlike any LS. Even so, 100G of Porsche money should go to something proper, like the 4S Turbo, but hey, it’s your money.

Toyota Prius V and Prius C Concept debut at NAIAS

Priuses. That’s how you pluralize Prius. Idiots on the internet love to say Prii, but they’re just displaying the ignorance of wrongheaded sheep. Clarifying that point is important, because at the North American International Auto Show, Toyota expanded its Prius nameplate to a range of vehicles instead of a single insect-like eco-bauble (which of course lives up to all its claims,) there is now the Prius V and Prius C. The concepts were unveiled by company president Akio Toyoda and general manager Bob Carter.

The Prius V (for versatility) is the production version of the hybrid MPV that’s been glimpsed for months. More tall wagon than hybrid minivan, the Prius V is only slightly longer than the third generation Prius hatchback but has a taller roof that extends almost straight back yielding 34 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row seats, a 60 percent improvement from the existing car. Contrary to earlier reports the Prius V will not have a third row of seats available.

The Prius V will use the same 1.8-liter hybrid powertrain used in the standard Prius as well as the recently introduced Lexus CT200h. When it goes on sale this summer, the Prius V is expected to get an EPA rating of 42 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 40 mpg combined. Toyota says the V’s weight-saving plastic resin panoramic moonroof is an industry first. Tell that to the 1954 Mercury Sun Valley.

Toyota brand general manager Bob Carter promised that the compact Prius C hatchback will be the most affordable and efficient non-plug-in vehicle available when it goes on sale. The design is a development of the FT-CH concept shown last year. No mechanical details were revealed but Toyota acknowledged that the Prius C would go on sale in late 2012.

Carter also confirmed that the Prius plug-in will go on sale in the first half of 2012, beginning in 13 states on the east and west coasts that follow California emissions rules. Availability will later expand nationwide although Carter would indicate a price point for the PHEV.

The two new models are just the beginning of a major hybrid expansion from Toyota. Carter promised that the automaker would launch 11 new hybrids in the next 23 months, of which seven would be new models, not replacements for existing models.

Given Toyota’s recent quality problems, this expansion could pose a major problem. During a safety and quality seminar in Japan last summer, Akio Toyoda and other executives acknowledged that the rapid expansion of the past decade contributed to the quality problems. The company was unable to properly train its employees in its quality processes and engineering suffered. During a media briefing following the announcement of the Prius C and V, Toyoda insisted that new human resources and quality process put in place after the crisis erupted will help prevent a repeat. While everyone’s gloating over Toyota’s dinged numbers now, wait until the end of 2011. Prediction: Toyota will be back, and the Prius V and Prius C will help drive that effort.