In piece of great timing for Porsche, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, the first ever model designed by Ferdinand Porsche has been found in an Austrian shed where it had sat for over a hundred years.
Fascinatingly, the car, nicknamed the P1 (but officially known as the "Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model") was an electric car.
It’s pretty odd to consider that Ferdinand Porsche designed a vehicle in 1898 that could do 50 miles on a full battery (albeit with a maximum speed of 22 miles an hour) and this kind of range has only started to look low compared to modern vehicles in the last few years. A hundred years later the fleet of ‘early modern’ electric vehicles struggled to exceed it. These vehicles - like the Chrysler TEVan, and the Chevrolet S-10 EV – were rather tokenistic offerings. They were launched in the 1990s in the US in response to the California Air Resources Board which demanded that car manufacturers create a range of electrics cars in the pursuit of cleaner air.
Back at the turn of the 20th century the the P1 lacked a few of the comforts of modern day vehicles – not to mention its not-exactly-earth-shattering ability to deliver 3 horsepower during usual performance with a peak of up to 7 horsepower (5.2kW) for for short bursts in order to reach its maximum speed.
It was, however, the first time Ferdinand Porsche was able to display his skills. He designed this vehicle as an apprentice at the Lohner works to immense excitement and orders for the workshop. However, it would be quite some time before Porsche was in charge of his own marque – and indeed until the next foray into electric vehicle design.
Over 30 years later, Ferdinand Porsche founded his own company - originally “Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH" in Stuttgart in 1931. The intervening years had pushed the development of cars towards the internal combustion engine and the first car designed by Porsche’s company (which, at the time, offered consultancy rather than building its own vehicles) was the iconic Volkswagen Beetle.
It’s sometimes forgotten that these popular and instantly recognized vehicles were developed in extreme political circumstances and their production during the second world war was switched to a military version.
It would take peace time, reflection and another 17 years before Porsche’s son, Ferry, would develop the Porsche brand into a new ideal for production vehicles.
In the beginning I looked around and could not find quite the car I dreamed of. So I decided to build it myself.
The birth of the Porsche brand in Gmünd (Austria) in 1948 brought the Porsche type 356 "No. 1" Roadster to life. A series of names and numbers has followed which conjure the very epitome and spirit of motoring.
But after all the developments – through the grand sweep of history from the tragedy and turbulence of the earlier 20th century to the era of peace where it was possible to enjoy the spirit of speed, marvel at the ever improving design and embrace the sheer magic which it enabled – Porsche can say it’s back to the start of the story.
In many ways the Taycan follows Porsche’s vision, a synthesis of style, design and technology. It was Ferdinand Porsche’s original electric drivetrain which caused such a stir across Europe and that set the wheels in motion towards the iconic brand. The Taycan is a worthy successor. Based on the uncompromisingly beautiful lines of the Mission E concept vehicle it has both the Porsche pedigree style and engineering prowess.
The original Mission E offered 605 hp from its all-electric drivetrain. Each axle boasts two electric motors – as used in the three-time-Le-Mans-winning 919 LMP1 hybrid, and which can recover heat energy from braking. With this setup, Porsche promises that the Mission E concept can reach 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and 124 mph in under 12.
It’s also not going to be too lengthy a process to charge it - it will be able to charge 80% of its battery in 15 minutes according to Klaus Zellmer, president and CEO for Porsche Cars North America. This will, Porsche reckons, beat Tesla’s charging times by half.
It is likely that the production Taycan will adopt a similar 4 wheel drive setup with regenerative braking and torque vectoring. Modern vehicles have a much longer design cycle than the first P1 - when design to delivery seem to be in the order of months rather than years. The Mission E concept first announced in 2015 will be available to buy – as the Taycan - by 2020.
As for the original P1? It was found in good condition (considering the passage of time and its less than luxurious setting) and its motor still functions, although the batteries and seats have gone missing.
Porsche engineers used the original P1 drawings to construct a ghostly plastic shell which delineates those parts that are missing parts. It is currently on display at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.
By Beate Kubitz at 13 Oct 2018, 00:00 AM