While the name of Ferdinand Porsche will forever be most closely linked to the original Porsche 356, the Austrian auto designer actually began his illustrious career a half century before that iconic exercise first rolled onto the scene in 1948. Porsche was just 22 when he penned his first model - the "Egger-Lohner electric vehicle C.2 Phaeton model." Unofficially dubbed the "P1" (for Porsche #1), it hit the streets of Vienna on June 26, 1898 and continued in service until 1902 when it was locked away in a warehouse where it remained untouched for over a 100 years. Recently the automaker rediscovered this historic piece of its corporate history and has now placed the P1 on permanent display in the Porsche Museum where it will serve as the centerpiece for the firm's product and motorsport history exhibition.
Designed to accept a variety different Lohner-crafted body styles, the P1's wooden chassis is fitted with a compact rear-mounted electric drive system. Motivation came from a three-horsepower motor that could have its output bumped to five via an "overdrive" mode which allowed the 2,977-pound vehicle to increase its top speed from 15 to 21 mph. Velocity was regulated by a 12-position controller, and the motor was energized by an 1,103-pound accumulator battery that gave the P1 an effective per-charge range of 49 miles. And for the record, the P1's wooden wheels were actually wrapped in pneumatic tires when it was on the road...
Like so many subsequent Porsche-designed vehicles, the P1 was a natural born competitor. Its initial triumph came in September 1899 at the International Motor Vehicle Exhibition in Berlin, where it took part in an electric car race held over a 24-mile course. With Porsche at the wheel and three passengers on board, the P1 crossed the finish line some 18 minutes ahead of its closest rival. In a contest where over half of the entrants failed to finish, this seminal Porsche also claimed victory in the efficiency portion of the event for having consumed the least amount of electricity on the run.
In addition to the electric-powered P1 model, the factory museum also showcases a meticulous recreation of another early Porsche creation, the Semper Vivus. A P1-based evolution of the Lohner-Porsche electric car first seen at the 1900 World Exposition in Paris, it was Ferdinand Porsche's initial foray into the gasoline/electric hybrid realm and a vehicle of note in its own right.
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