1900 Lohner-Porsche Hybrid. The only thing I like better than learning about new automotive technology is finding out that it was first invented a hundred years or more ago. Most people would believe Toyota invented the hybrid-electric car, but despite the fact that its Prius model has been in production for some twenty years, and has become a cult symbol in the world of ecofriendly cars, a certain Dr Porsche designed a petrol/ electric system way back in 1899!
History Paul Beard tells the story of the Lohner Porsche Hybrid.
At the time, the young Ferdinand was working for Lohner, a car manufacturer in Austria (that nowadays produces electric bikes) and he had gleaned much information about electric motors and how they could be used in horseless carriages. Since the 1820’s, various companies from America, Germany, Hungary and Scotland had dabbled with electric powered propulsion, to varying degrees of success. Porsche built his own electric vehicle in 1898/9 but then worked out how to use petrol engines in conjunction with electric motors.
When looking at pictures of this car and indeed of the replica, that was completed in 2011, just in time for Porsche to include it in the marketing of the then new Panamera Hybrid, you can see several innovations that could easily be mistaken for modern ideas. In wheel hub motors, albeit on the outside, are now a fairly common way of powering each wheel separately. And, the internal-pole electric motors were attached to the front wheels, a revolutionary step that wouldn’t be widely adopted by the car industry until decades thereafter, when Citroën popularised it with the Traction in 1934. The hub-mounted electric motors were powered by batteries with a terminal voltage of 60-80 volts and a capacity of 170-300Ah. At a normal speed of 22mph, the vehicle had a range of around 31 miles. Needless to say, the Lohner-Porsche received a great deal of recognition and praise at the Paris Exposition of 1900. A year later, Lohner-Porsche showed a version with a motor on each wheel and this became the first all-wheel drive car.
It wasn’t long before fire brigades and taxi companies began buying vehicles based on the Lohner-Porsche design and for a while they were all the rage. However, problems ensued with the realisation and limitation of the vehicles’ range and there wasn’t enough charging infrastructure – sounds familiar – added to the fact it took too long to replenish the batteries. Ironically, electric vehicles were deemed too clean, too quiet and considered a little boring even; and so the idea ultimately flopped. Interestingly, Herr Lohner himself said that the electric car was cleaner and didn’t pump out exhaust gasses that were mercilessly ruining the air. It has only taken one of the planet’s most self-proclaimed ‘intelligent’ species to work out that this is true.