While this might not be the sleek and fancy car of the average man’s dream, the very first Porsche, built back in 1898, was recently found hidden away in a warehouse and has been renovated by the Automotive Museum and put on public display. The really interesting part is that this is a fully electric car.
When Ferdinand Porsche first started his working life, he was employed by companies like Lohner, Daimler-Benz, Steyr and Austro-Daimler. He spent his time designing and building cars and gathering valuable experience in the field. That experience eventually allowed him to form his own company back in 1931 and his vehicles have been well-known ever since.
However, it was back in 1898, when he was a mere 22 years old, that he designed and built his very first Porsche car. He was always interested in the electricity field and in 1893, was apprenticed by an electrical engineering firm, Béla Egger & Co. In 1898, he was working for the car builder, Jacob Lohner, and the vehicle that he designed was, at the time, actually called the “Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model,” thus combining the two company names. However, while he was involved in building the car, he carefully marked each component of the vehicle with “P1,” or Porsche One.
Back in September 1899, Porsche even got to drive the car in a race, which was organized and run as part of an exhibition to specifically demonstrate to the public the great performance and efficiency of electric cars. The race was run over a distance of 25 miles from the city of Berlin in Germany to the city of Zehlendorf, and back again. He sped over the finishing line a full 18 minutes ahead of the vehicle that came second and this great victory not only excited him, with this being his very first car, but he also received a gold medal for his efforts.
Looking more like a horse drawn carriage than anything else, the rear-wheel drive P1 had a fully electric drive train, with its five horse-power motor situated transversely between the front and rear wheels. The designer used an “octagon” electric motor in the vehicle, one of his own inventions and named for its eight-sided design. He used shock absorbers to protect the motor while it was suspended and oscillated around the vehicle axle.
The vehicle achieved a top speed of 21 miles per hour, although it could only travel fairly short distances. As other later designs proved more effective than the initial P1, including the fact that the designer found he preferred front wheel drive vehicles, the car was parked in a warehouse in 1902, where it remained until it came to light again only recently.
Once it was found the Porsche Museum was excited over the discovery of the vehicle and the car has now been completely renovated. The museum describes the vehicle in their press release as a “technological and historical sensation,” and now it can be visited and enjoyed with the other exhibits at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
By Anne Sewell
Photos courtesy Porsche Museum