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Electric car could hit nearly 22 mph, go almost 50 miles on a charge

Today EVs and mild electrics are very much in vogue, but few are aware that before the dominance of gasoline engines most of the earliest automobiles were actually EVs as well.  Of course, they didn't have fancy lithium ion batteries back then.  These EVs used the classic rechargeable battery chemistry -- lead acid -- invented by French physicist Gaston Plant in 1859.

The 1890s and 1900s were a golden age for electric vehicles.  By then lead acid batteries had become moderately affordable, allowing actual commercial deployments of electric vehicles in New York City and London, mostly for taxicab use.

This Friday a lost relic of that era will go on display at Porsche Automobil Holding SE's (ETR:PAH3) Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

Built in 1898, the vehicle was dubbled the "Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model" and was the first design produced by Ferdinand Porsche.  Just 22 at the time, the automotive pioneer was employed by Jakob Lohner & Comp., an early luxury carmaker who made vehicles for European royalty.

Porsche P1 drawing

Porsche's first design mixed metal and wood in an artisan carriage frame.  Porsche showed his pride in the design, engraving a "P1" mark onto its parts, a trademark that gave the early EV its nickname.  Gauges were hooked up to the battery, giving readouts of the voltage and amperage.  These readouts gave a crude indication of the miles remaining on the charge.

Porsche P1 gauges

Over a third of the 1350 kg vehicle's (2,977 lb) weight came from the 500 kg (1103 lb) lead-acid battery, which gave the vehicle a 80 km (49.7 mi) range -- not bad by today's standards, even.  The downside was that the 3 hp (horsepower) electric motor could only drive the vehicle at speeds 25 km/h (15.5 mph), but it had a bit of an extra trick under the hood.  It could drive for limited bursts in an "overdrive" mode, which shot the net horsepower up to 5 hp and the speed up to 35 km/h (21.75 mph).

Porsche P1

In 1899 the P1 proved its mettle devastating the competition in a motorsports event at an exhibition in Berlin.  In a 40 km (24.9 mi) race, Porsche finished a full 18 minutes ahead of the competition.

Porsche P1 wheel

Porsche would spend the next few decades working at various early European automakers, before going to work for the Nazis in World War II and joining the SS as a mid-ranking official.  Porsche died in 1951, after a brief imprisonment for his role as an officer in the SS.  Before his death he founded the modern Porsche under his name and produced the "inverted tub" that was the Porsche 356.  While his eager support of the Nazis was shameful, his early electric vehicles were groundbreaking.

Porsche P1

The P1 on display was found in a shed in Porsche's home nation of Austria.  After eleven and a half decades and two wars, it was in near-pristine shape.

Porsche P1

Today Porsche is returning to its electric roots.  In addition to the eye-catching 918 Spyder hybrid electric "hypercar" (which is set for production later this year as a limited edition halo car), the Cayenne crossover utility vehicle and the Panamera sports sedan/hatchback have received hybrid editions.  And this year's Porsche 911 will reportedly have a limited hybrid edition, as well.  Porsche says it wants to have a hybrid variant of every one of its models.

Sources: Porsche [1], [2]

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what happened to those EVs?
By mik123 on 1/28/2014 10:46:39 PM , Rating: 2
So, why did electric batteries lose to gasoline?

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By Philippine Mango on 1/28/14, Rating: 0
RE: what happened to those EVs?
By mik123 on 1/28/14, Rating: 0
RE: what happened to those EVs?
By TheEquatorialSky on 1/29/2014 12:55:06 AM , Rating: 5
Because an electric "gas tank" weighs 1100lbs?

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By Chaca on 2/3/2014 11:58:44 PM , Rating: 2
What if all the resources that were dedicated for over 100 years to making the internal combustion engine slightly more efficient, they were instead dedicated to making the electric car more efficient? Can anyone explain how we can conclude that nothing better could have been done for the electric car had those resources been allocated to it?

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By invidious on 1/29/2014 8:23:28 AM , Rating: 5
You say this as if we are all being tricked into buying oil that we don't need/want. Oil has high profit margins because it is rediculously useful and has to be mined and refined before a consumer can use it.

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By Spuke on 1/29/2014 10:30:34 AM , Rating: 5
Oil became cheaper. Simple as that.

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By CyCl0n3 on 1/29/2014 3:25:33 AM , Rating: 2
Because the fuel engines in the early days of the Motorvehicles had to be wound up by hand to get started, and that changed after the invention of the electronic ignition system. So it was not uncomfortable to start the gasoline engines in comparison to the electric engines anymore. In addition the cost for a gasoline engine dropped to ~50% of the electric engine due to low oil prices. So there was not much benefit of it for the people, and it was way cheaper.

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By FITCamaro on 1/29/2014 7:52:56 AM , Rating: 2
Nevermind that a simple buggy weighed almost 3000 pounds and the battery alone weighed over 1000 pounds.

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By B3an on 1/29/14, Rating: 0
RE: what happened to those EVs?
By troysavary on 1/29/2014 8:44:06 AM , Rating: 2
No, they would be exactly were they are now. EVs have been held back by battery tech, nothing else. All the other things that make modern EVs more viable, like lighter, stronger materials, aerodynamics, lighter and more powerful electric engines, etc, were developed independently of electric vehicles.

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By troysavary on 1/29/14, Rating: 0
RE: what happened to those EVs?
By CZroe on 1/29/2014 9:03:43 AM , Rating: 4
Because exchanging 2,000lbs of batteries every 50 miles did not appeal to anyone.

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By CZroe on 1/29/2014 9:07:04 AM , Rating: 4
Also, no need for home electricity with a liquid-fueled vehicle.

In 1899 there were still plenty of people with no power at home who needed vehicle so it's a real concern. 1890s farm trucks and tractors can't count on power. And don't kid yourself: Industry and agriculture was the primary market for automobiles back then.

Even if you did have power at home your range was effectively under 25 miles (had to be able to get back home).

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By protomech on 1/29/2014 10:29:26 AM , Rating: 2
Starter motors for the gas engine reduced the risk of injury when starting the car, introduced in the 1910s and widespread by the 1920s. Fuel pumps started to take off in the 1920s and 1930s, allowing gas cars to tour with relative ease. No more obtaining gas by the pint from the local drug store or blacksmith!

RE: what happened to those EVs?
By Motoman on 1/29/2014 12:13:19 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah, I mean just look at all the progress EVs have made in 110 years.

This original car could go 50 miles on a charge. A century later, EVs can go...60 miles.

Now that's progress.

Historical ignorance.
By Captain Orgazmo on 1/29/2014 3:48:34 PM , Rating: 3
Before his death he founded the modern Porsche under his name and produced the "inverted tub" that was the Porsche 356.

Not blaming you for anything Jason, but it's very annoying that F. Porsche is credited with the design of the Volkswagen Type 1 (Beetle) and its Porsche derivatives. It seems to be forgotten history that he copied the aerodynamic shape and central transmission tunnel of the pre-war Tatras of Czechoslovakia, and was being sued by Tatra prior to the start of the war. I should add, Hitler ordered him to do so after they first saw the Tatras in the early 1930s.

A heaping helping of irony was added when the hippie movement adopted the Volkswagen as one of its most prominent symbols. A spoil of war became a symbol of stupid peaceniks.

RE: Historical ignorance.
By Dug on 1/29/2014 4:37:49 PM , Rating: 2
But Porsche and Ledwinka shared designs all the time. Porsche was influenced by Ledwinka's aerodynamic designs and that's what Hitler wanted. Ledwinka didn't design the Type 1, but he knew exactly what Porsche was doing.
It was Tatras that believed Porsche was steeling the design. They should have sued Ledwinka.

RE: Historical ignorance.
By Captain Orgazmo on 2/1/2014 5:20:08 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know where you heard that Ledwinka "shared" designs with Porsche. They were somewhat friends and both talented designer-engineers of the era, but Ledwinka would have had no reason to give Porsche direct help - Ledwinka's son took over as lead designer for Tatra in 1936; helping Porsche gain advantage would hurt his son. Porsche himself admitted to "looking over [Ledwinka's] shoulder."

In any case, the design was ultimately used for propaganda purposes by Hitler, and the Tatra brand was nationalized by the post-war communist puppet government and turned into a joke. Had things gone differently, such as the British and French not stabbing the well armed but outnumbered Czechs and Slovaks in the back, Das Auto would never have existed, never mind being #2 car manufacturer in the world.

By spe1491 on 1/28/2014 11:15:43 PM , Rating: 2
Think you meant eleven and a half decades, not centuries....

RE: Centuries?
By spe1491 on 1/28/2014 11:19:29 PM , Rating: 2
Article title correctly says decades, but towards the end of the article it says centuries instead.

By Disorganise on 1/29/2014 2:05:10 AM , Rating: 3
After eleven and a half decades and two wars, it was in near-pristine shape.

As much as it is pretty impressive that this thing survived at all, to call it near-pristine is stretching.
Pristine if we ignore the fact you couldn't use it because the body containing the seats is missing.

I wonder if in 11 decades we'll be re-discovering combustion engines?

By Ammohunt on 1/28/14, Rating: -1
RE: Confused
By geddarkstorm on 1/29/2014 12:02:27 AM , Rating: 2
Did he know of their genocidal, fascist, world domination tendancies before he signed up? If so, then what he did was empirically shameful -- nothing to do who wrote history. If not, then maybe a case can be made that he was duped by nationalist fervor before Nazi insanity showed itself.

Seriously, Ammo, I honestly can't believe you wrote something so bizarrely foolish. You're smarter than this.

RE: Confused
By TheEquatorialSky on 1/29/14, Rating: 0
RE: Confused
By Fujikoma on 1/29/2014 2:31:04 AM , Rating: 2
Hitler and Co. knew what they were doing in the 30's.
Porsche may or may not have known at the time of the VW. He did, however, design the Mouse. It may have been the largest production tank, but it was a resource hog... intentionally designed to use a large amount of petrol to run and use a lot of steel in its construction. It was a way to design a war machine that kept him from getting shot. By the 40's, the general population knew that enemies of the state were being rounded up and murdered by police battalions (and even more so by the time the death camps were set up). It will be a good thing when that generation dies out. Never really read of Porsche being an enthusiastic Nazi.

RE: Confused
By troysavary on 1/29/2014 8:37:35 AM , Rating: 5
It will be a good thing when that generation dies out.

Yes, because everyone knows that racism and genocide stopped with that generation.

RE: Confused
By TheEquatorialSky on 1/29/2014 12:46:58 PM , Rating: 2
...or than an entire generation was complicit in the acts of a minority.

RE: Confused
By Murloc on 1/29/2014 5:42:15 AM , Rating: 2
go read the transcripts of Hitler's election speeches.

RE: Confused
By Ranari on 1/29/2014 8:07:08 AM , Rating: 2
Hitler knew exactly what he was doing, and so, too, did the population. Calling for the extermination of the Jews along with the idea of creating living space to further expand only means one primary directive: Extermination and war, and Hitler made it clear about this right from the very beginning. Because of their notoriously pro-big business policies, many people overlooked what was going on because the Nazis put everyone back to work, along with capitalizing on rebuilding German pride.

So don't think for a moment no one knew. Everyone knew what was going on, and few did anything about it.

RE: Confused
By TheEquatorialSky on 1/29/2014 12:40:11 PM , Rating: 1
People treat Hitler and the Nazis as though WWII and the Holocaust were carefully orchestrated plans, which is ridiculous.

1) Nazis hated the Jewish people and wanted them gone from Germany
2) Nazis wanted land, primarily their territory lost during WWI

To suggest that upon taking power in 1933 that the Nazi's plan to solve these two issues were to commit genocide and total war is naive, in my opinion. Who knows what Hitler's true intentions were, but it's clear from his public statements that he recognized the limits of political reality. Conditions have to deteriorate significantly before human depravity accommodates such horror.

RE: Confused
By JediJeb on 1/29/2014 6:07:46 PM , Rating: 2
Actually I was watching a show on TV this weekend I think it was called "The Nazi Gospels" or something like that. Hitler's belief was that through evolution/natural selection the human race(or his Arian race)could only evolve when engaged in a struggle such as war, and that peace meant a stagnation of the improvement of the human race. So from the very beginning Hitler wanted war because he thought it was a purifying influence on mankind. In the eyes of a Nazi, continual war was the only way for advancement.

RE: Confused
By troysavary on 1/29/2014 8:34:14 AM , Rating: 2
Who knows what he knew?

RE: Confused
By Reclaimer77 on 1/29/2014 1:21:22 AM , Rating: 3
In the context winners writing history it was only "Shameful" because Hitler lost.

Right, so if Hitler won we would all be praising genocide and the Holocaust and every other atrocity he pulled? That's idiotic.

"Winners write the history books" is one of the most misused and least understood phrases out there. Your post proves that.

RE: Confused
By troysavary on 1/29/2014 8:33:21 AM , Rating: 2
For decades, the Native Americans were portrayed as savages who deserved to be wiped out in American pop culture. There are still people today who think Chairman Mao or Che Guevara were heros to their respective people. Don't underestimate to willingness of average people to believe a lie if it is told often enough.

RE: Confused
By Spuke on 1/29/2014 10:46:45 AM , Rating: 2
So you're a holocaust denier then?

RE: Confused
By Reclaimer77 on 1/30/2014 12:16:57 AM , Rating: 2
Knowing him he probably is. He denies everything else that's reality...

RE: Confused
By troysavary on 1/30/2014 8:55:11 AM , Rating: 1
Where the fuck did either of you get that I am a holocaust denier out of what I said? If Germany had won, they would have controlled the opinions. People would have accepted the Holocaust because the government would have told them too. I gave examples of where people believe the opposite of true. I didn't once defend Hitler or deny anything that the Nazis did.

Are you one of these brainless kids who walk around wearing a Che t-shirt because you think he was cool? Maybe you don't like that I pointed out the genocide committed against Native Americans and how that genocide was celebrated in Cowboy and Indian movies.

Or, in reclaimer's case, maybe you are even more of a Google bitch than even I suspected and you have to apply a label like that to me in a vain attempt to discredit me because you cannot refute anything I say about Google. Pretty low to try to associate me with Nazis just because I don't like Google. You truly are pathetic. I'd probably be angry if I didn't have so much contempt for you.

RE: Confused
By Reclaimer77 on 1/31/14, Rating: 0
RE: Confused
By troysavary on 2/1/2014 9:22:02 AM , Rating: 2
Google doesn't tie into it. You were the one who tried to link the two, not me.

The fact you deny here was a genocide commited against Nativesshows that the propoganda worked on you. Tahnks for proving my point.

I suppose they were never rounded up and forced to live on reservations. I suppose those who resisted were not killed. I suppose that their culture was not paraded around in Wild West shows to be mocked.

Even the germ warfare happened. Infected blankets were purposely traded to Natives. You don't know this because the winners wrote the history books.

RE: Confused
By Reclaimer77 on 2/1/2014 10:43:46 PM , Rating: 1
RE: Confused
By Nutzo on 1/29/2014 11:23:46 AM , Rating: 3
Right, so if Hitler won we would all be praising genocide and the Holocaust and every other atrocity he pulled? That's idiotic.

Actually we'd probably be speaking German, the schools would be teaching how great the government is and how corrupt the founding fathers were, and how evil capitalism is.

So in otherwords, the only difference would be that we would be speaking German.

RE: Confused
By powerwerds on 1/29/2014 2:46:53 PM , Rating: 2
At first I lol'd... Now I'm crying... just crying...

RE: Confused
By Reclaimer77 on 1/30/2014 12:22:46 AM , Rating: 2
Actually we'd probably be speaking German, the schools would be teaching how great the government is and how corrupt the founding fathers were, and how evil capitalism is.

When you say "we" do you mean America? Because there's just no way Hitler conquers North America. Europe sure, but not here.

RE: Confused
By JediJeb on 1/30/2014 5:52:41 PM , Rating: 2
If Hitler had waited and finished off Brittan before going after Russia, he could have conquered all of Europe. If he held Europe while Japan held all of Asia and Italy/Germany held Africa, what would have limited him from coming to the Americas?

If he had gotten to that point, then moved into the Caribbean to control the sea there and cut through Panama to divide North and South America, the US would have been cut off from vital supplies of rubber to use for our transportation needs. That alone would have made it quite a struggle for us to keep Hitler out of the US during WWII if things had gone a little differently. Plus if Hitler had begun any type of attack from the east, the US would have had less resources to spend on fighting Japan to the west, which would have also put us in a much worse position.

Now once you got every person in the US riled up good, it would have been a much different situation than Germany faced when rolling through a relatively disarmed/passive France. Germany and Japan actually setting foot on US soil would have resulted in one of the bloodiest fights the world has ever seen and which way it would have ended would have been something to ponder. Hitler already had people in South America, which is why so many former Nazis fled there after the war, so taking South America would not have been such a difficult fight if he had split north from south at Panama.

The biggest mistake Hitler made, which also probably save the world from seeing even more horrific bloodshed than it did, was not finishing off Brittan before moving on Russia. Had Hitler not been arrogant and over stretched, who knows what would have happened. I know I am glad he screwed up on that one.

RE: Confused
By Reclaimer77 on 1/31/2014 1:57:00 PM , Rating: 2
If he held Europe while Japan held all of Asia and Italy/Germany held Africa, what would have limited him from coming to the Americas?


Plus even if he beats us back to America, there's STILL a massive military war machine here he would have to face.

I haven't seen any realistic scenario depicted where Hitler with technology and logistics of the time, establishes a foothold on America. Much less take it.

And how exactly would he have air-cover? It's not like there was mid-air refueling back then. We would have a massive advantage in the skies.

RE: Confused
By TheEquatorialSky on 1/29/2014 1:02:48 PM , Rating: 1
Right, so if Hitler won we would all be praising genocide and the Holocaust and every other atrocity he pulled? That's idiotic.

No, but it probably would of been swept under the rug. To suggest that the victors don't write the history books is naive. Here are some famous quotes from some famous people:

"Who's going to remember all this riff-raff in ten or twenty years time? No one. Who remembers the names now of the boyars Ivan the Terrible got rid of? No one." - Victor #1

"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" - Victor #2

"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch

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