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Luxury hybrids are the newest, oldest wave

While retro trends like flared jeans are still a no-no in my books some things like luxury and high-performance cars, augmented with electrical power are worth reviving. 

Flared jeans are coming back. This time I’ll take a pass. I suffered enough. I wore them all through high school in the 1970s, combined with long, centre-parted hair.

But some things are definitely worth reviving. A case in point is luxury and high-performance cars, augmented with electrical power.

They’re hybrids, yes, but hybrids on the other side of the spectrum from Toyota Prius.

The Prius and its ilk are all about fuel efficiency. The cache of a luxury/performance hybrid, however, is three-fold: increased power, increased fuel efficiency, and the fact that this power and efficiency is only possible through exclusive and expensive technology not everybody can afford.

Like how many people will be able to afford the crazy new hybrid that Jaguar just announced?

Based on the C-X75 concept the British automaker displayed at the 2010 Paris auto show, production versions will be restricted to just 200 examples, at 700,000-plus British Pounds each?

I believe that translates to over $1 million Canadian dollars, but I’m not sure, as I have been trying to stay away from math ever since Mr. Runstedtler’s Grade 10 calculus class.

Porsche is on to its third hybrid. By fall, we should see the $108,700 Panamera S Hybrid, which shares the same V6-electric powertrain as the Cayenne S Hybrid.

The other hybrid is a race car — the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. When the Panamera S Hybrid was first shown in North America, at the recent auto show in New York, it was accompanied by a replica of Porsche’s — and probably the world’s — first gas-electric hybrid.

Ferdinand Porsche was just 24, when he engineered and built the 1900 Semper Vivas, as a member of the Austrian coach-building firm Jacob Lohner.

Only one example was ever built, and it didn’t survive.

The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, commissioned restorer, Hubert Drescher, to recreate the car, from only one known picture, and several sketches.

I had a chance to speak to Mr. Drescher, at the New York show, and he noted there is not one original part on the car. It was completely re-created.

But the horn and the two 1.7-litre, single-cylinder De Dion Bouton engines are exactly the same vintage and type used on the original car. He found the engines at a flea market. Good score.

The engines drive the rear wheels, and power a dynamo that juices the massive battery pack and the two enormous electric motors fitted to the front wheels.

The Semper Vivas can go 35-40 km/h on a flat road, pretty heady stuff for 1900. But a hill climber it is not. It weights almost two tons.

Gas was pretty cheap and abundant in 1900. The young Ferdinand Porsche was not looking for electricity as a transportation salvation fuel, as some do today.

He was simply looking for ways to satisfy his — and the collective’s — desire for powerful, high-performing automobiles.

Like another visionary, Yogi Berra, once opinioned: “It’s like déjà-vu all over again.”

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