Gamechanger: how Ferdinand Porsche designed the first-ever hybrid car
Electromobility and Porsche goes back nearly 125 years
Two men in vintage Porsche hybrid car and Cayenne S Hybrid
Hybrid and all-electric cars may feel like a thoroughly modern mobility solution, but the man who founded Porsche was designing battery-powered cars at the turn of the 20th Century
Electrification: it’s in the Porsche DNAWhen it comes to cars, electrification feels very much a 21st Century phenomenon. But not only does it have a history that stretches back to the late 1800s, you may well be surprised to learn that the man who founded Porsche – and after whom the company is named – was a pioneer of battery-powered mobility. In fact, Ferdinand Porsche designed the first-ever hybrid car, unveiled as a prototype in 1900 – 110 years before the launch of the Cayenne S Hybrid in 2010, the first electrified Porsche of the modern era.Ferdinand Porsche had a long-standing fascination with electricity, going back to his childhood. In 1893, an 18-year-old Ferdinand showed the kind of technical and engineering nous that would be a feature of his career when he installed a lighting system in his parents’ house. And just a few years later, while working for the Vereinigte Elektrizitäts-AG Béla Egger company in Vienna, the young Ferdinand began designing vehicles with electric drives.
Early hybrid car from turn of 20th Century
The Lohner-Porsche Semper Vivus in 1900 – its name meant ‘forever alive’ in Latin
The first-ever Porsche-designed electric car could not have been more different to the Porsche Taycan of today. Revealed to the public in 1898, the Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton was powered by an octagonal electric motor that produced up to five PS, could hit a top speed of 35km/h and a range of around 80km. Ferdinand would name it the ‘P1’ – to signify that it was the first ever Porsche-designed car.
Ferdinand Porsche in the late-19th Century, arms crossed
Ferdinand Porsche in 1898 – the year he introduced his first fully-electric car, the Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton
The first of many Porsche firstsAnd just two years later, now working with the Vienna-based k.u.k. Hofwagenfabrik Ludwig Lohner & Co, Ferdinand designed what was the world’s first-ever hybrid car – the ‘Semper Vivus’. Unlike the Egger-Lohner C.2 Phaeton, the Semper Vivus – which in 1901 launched as the production-ready Lohner-Porsche ‘Mixte’ – had a combustion engine, but that’s where Ferdinand’s genius kicked in. The engine powered a generator that sent a charge to the wheel hubs to drive them.
Diagram of electric motor by Ferdinand Porsche, early 20th Century
Ferdinand Porsche’s design for a ‘Drive Steering Wheel with Electric Motor’ for the Porsche-Lohner ‘Mixte’ (1902)
A long, long wait… but worth itFor almost a century, the Lohner-Porsche remained the last Porsche-designed electrified car. It may not have grabbed the consumer’s attention at the time, but with its innovative technology, the 25-year-old Ferdinand Porsche had announced himself as an exciting new talent in the world of automotive engineering.Some 30 years later, in 1931, Ferdinand founded the company that today still bears his name, a manufacturer for whom being a gamechanger would be a driving force. Fast forward another eight decades and, in 2010, the spiritual heir to the world’s first-ever hybrid car was launched in the shape of the Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid. Yes, the technology was by now far more sophisticated, but the underlining principles remained broadly the same – a combustion engine that generated an electrical charge, albeit this time to power a battery rather than directly to the wheels.
White 2010 Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid
110 years after Ferdinand Porsche designed the world first-ever hybrid, the company he founded launched the Cayenne S Hybrid
Today, electromobility is a key component for both Porsche present and future in the form of its plug-in hybrid electric vehicles – the Panamera E-Hybrid and Cayenne E-Hybrid range – and across its fully-electric sportscar range, the Taycan. And it all began with technology pioneered by Ferdinand Porsche almost 125 years ago.
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