While the thought of an electric Porsche still makes many purists squirm in their seats, Ferdinand Porsche himself was a firm believer in the technology...
It is said that the young Ferdinand was fascinated by electricity. In 1893, the the then 18-year-old Porsche installed an electric lighting system in his parents' house. In the same year he joined Vereinigte Elektrizitäts-AG Béla Egger in Vienna. After 4 years, he progressed from mechanic to head of the testing department. The first vehicles he designed had electric drives — so, actually, the history of Porsche begins with the electric drive.
In 1898, Ferdinand Porsche designed the Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton. Powered by an octagonal electric motor, and with 3 to 5 PS (2.2 to 3.7kW). it could reach a top speed of 25 kph. A year later Porsche joined a carriage maker in Vienna, k.u.k. Hofwagenfabrik Ludwig Lohner & Co.
Lohner-Porsche Semper Vivus - the world's first hybrid car?
There he developed the electric wheel hub motor. In 1900, the first Lohner-Porsche Electromobile was presented at the Paris Expo. With 2 x 1.8kW it reached a top speed of 37kph. Even back then the reasoning behind the electric vehicle was similar to what it is today; the air was described as “ruthlessly spoiled by the large number of petrol engines in use”.
Also in 1900, Porsche designed what was regarded as the world's first functional hybrid car, the “Semper Vivus” (Latin for “always alive”). Marketed as the Lohner-Porsche system, it also had applications beyond electric vehicles. Porsche extended the car’s range by not using a battery as an energy source, but instead using a combustion engine to drive a generator and thus supply the wheel hub with electrical energy. One year later, the production-ready version was born as the Lohner-Porsche “Mixte”.
However, the Lohner-Porsche also demonstrated why electric mobility has failed over the decades: despite its modest power output, the car was very heavy, and weighed almost two tonnes. The lack of infrastructure and the short range put an end to electromobility for a long time. Until now.