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123 Years of Porsche Electromobility

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The first car designed by Ferdinand Porsche in 1898 was an electric car. 

As a teenager, Ferdinand Porsche, founder of the company that bears his name, was fascinated by electricity. In 1893, at the age of 18, Porsche joined Vereinigte Elektrizitäts-AG Béla Egger in Vienna, where he designed the first electric drive vehicle.

Over the next ten years, Ferdinand Porsche developed the electric wheel hub motor and designed the world’s first functional hybrid car, the “Semper Vivus” (Latin for “always alive”). The technology, marketed as the Lohner-Porsche system, later came to fruition in the production-ready version known as the Lohner-Porsche “Mixte”.

The notion of “competition for customers, and competition on the race track” is firmly engraved in Porsche’s genetic make-up. From the onset, motorsport has been the company’s driving force.

In 1899, the Lohner-Porsche Elektromobil boasted victory as the winner of a 50 km-long race that formed part of the Berlin Motor Show. A year later, Ferdinand Porsche designed the world’s first all-wheel-drive passenger car, the “La Toujours Contente” (“The Always Satisfied”) electric racecar. In 1902, Porsche won the Exelberg Rally with the hybrid vehicle, the Lohner-Porsche Mixte. And, in 1905, the Lohner-Porsche battery-powered racecar reached speeds over 130 km/h.

As petrol and diesel became more widely available in the early 1900s, with lead-acid batteries failing to deliver the necessary advances in energy density, Ferdinand Porsche shifted his attention to internal combustion engines, which later dominated the 20th century as the most obvious choice of propulsion. This formed the basis for Porsche’s transformation from an electric vehicle startup to become one of the most prominent luxury brands in the world – and arguably the manufacturer of the most advanced internal combustion engines, as exemplified by Porsche’s incomparable success both on and off the racetrack. 

More than a century later, battery technology finally made the necessary advances in energy density, courtesy of the invention of lithium-ion batteries. Embracing its roots, Porsche made the logical decision to implement the electrification of the powertrain on the racetrack at a very early stage. In 2010, the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid went to the Nürburgring as the first racecar with a partially electric drive, followed by the plug-in hybrid Porsche 918 Spyder, which broke the previous lap record for production cars on the Nordschleife with a lap time of 6:57 minutes in 2013.

The 919 Hybrid also left the production line for the first time in 2013, entering the LMP1 category in 2014 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship. In 2015, Porsche achieved the first of three consecutive Le Mans victories. The company rounded off this chapter of its motorsport history at the end of 2017 after winning six World Championship titles.

The 919 Hybrid is the most complex race car Porsche has designed and built to date. Many of the components and concepts that made it such a successful Class 1 prototype have found their way into road vehicles such as the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, and now in the Taycan and Taycan Cross Turismo, which include Porsche’s pioneering 800-volt technology and the permanently enticing synchronous motors.

With its origins deeply rooted in an electric past, Porsche is currently perpetuating its early history. Nearly a century-and-a-quarter after Ferdinand Porsche designed his first electric car, Porsche is pivoting towards an all-electric future. And based on the evidence at hand – as displayed by the phenomenal Taycan and Taycan Cross Turismo models – Porsche’s all-electric future looks every bit as promising as its glorious past.

As a teenager, Ferdinand Porsche, founder of the company that bears his name, was fascinated by electricity. In 1893, at the age of 18, Porsche joined Vereinigte Elektrizitäts-AG Béla Egger in Vienna, where he designed the first electric drive vehicle.

Over the next ten years, Ferdinand Porsche developed the electric wheel hub motor and designed the world’s first functional hybrid car, the “Semper Vivus” (Latin for “always alive”). The technology, marketed as the Lohner-Porsche system, later came to fruition in the production-ready version known as the Lohner-Porsche “Mixte”.

The notion of “competition for customers, and competition on the race track” is firmly engraved in Porsche’s genetic make-up. From the onset, motorsport has been the company’s driving force.

In 1899, the Lohner-Porsche Elektromobil boasted victory as the winner of a 50 km-long race that formed part of the Berlin Motor Show. A year later, Ferdinand Porsche designed the world’s first all-wheel-drive passenger car, the “La Toujours Contente” (“The Always Satisfied”) electric racecar. In 1902, Porsche won the Exelberg Rally with the hybrid vehicle, the Lohner-Porsche Mixte. And, in 1905, the Lohner-Porsche battery-powered racecar reached speeds over 130 km/h.

As petrol and diesel became more widely available in the early 1900s, with lead-acid batteries failing to deliver the necessary advances in energy density, Ferdinand Porsche shifted his attention to internal combustion engines, which later dominated the 20th century as the most obvious choice of propulsion. This formed the basis for Porsche’s transformation from an electric vehicle startup to become one of the most prominent luxury brands in the world – and arguably the manufacturer of the most advanced internal combustion engines, as exemplified by Porsche’s incomparable success both on and off the racetrack. 

More than a century later, battery technology finally made the necessary advances in energy density, courtesy of the invention of lithium-ion batteries. Embracing its roots, Porsche made the logical decision to implement the electrification of the powertrain on the racetrack at a very early stage. In 2010, the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid went to the Nürburgring as the first racecar with a partially electric drive, followed by the plug-in hybrid Porsche 918 Spyder, which broke the previous lap record for production cars on the Nordschleife with a lap time of 6:57 minutes in 2013.

The 919 Hybrid also left the production line for the first time in 2013, entering the LMP1 category in 2014 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the World Endurance Championship. In 2015, Porsche achieved the first of three consecutive Le Mans victories. The company rounded off this chapter of its motorsport history at the end of 2017 after winning six World Championship titles.

The 919 Hybrid is the most complex race car Porsche has designed and built to date. Many of the components and concepts that made it such a successful Class 1 prototype have found their way into road vehicles such as the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, and now in the Taycan and Taycan Cross Turismo, which include Porsche’s pioneering 800-volt technology and the permanently enticing synchronous motors.

With its origins deeply rooted in an electric past, Porsche is currently perpetuating its early history. Nearly a century-and-a-quarter after Ferdinand Porsche designed his first electric car, Porsche is pivoting towards an all-electric future. And based on the evidence at hand – as displayed by the phenomenal Taycan and Taycan Cross Turismo models – Porsche’s all-electric future looks every bit as promising as its glorious past.

Report by WILHELM LOOTS | Images © PORSCHE

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