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Historic first Porsche P1 electric vehicle goes on display

Tue, 28 Jan 2014

In what at first glance appears to be a blatant attempt to upset McLaren’s SEO – that’s Search Engine Optimisation – a Porsche P1 model has been announced.

But this is no fearsome new 1,000hp rival to McLaren’s P1 hypercar (after all, Porsche already has one of those). Rather, the Porsche P1 actually dates from 1898, and produces just 3hp. Yes, three horsepower.

The P1 name should also have quotation marks round it, as "P1" is only the unofficial title for this veteran four-wheeler. Officially it’s called the "Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model", and it was the first vehicle ever designed and built by Ferdinand Porsche. He was just 22 at the time.

You can immediately see why the shorter P1 name might be attractive. But it’s not entirely for the sake of convenience. Ferdinand engraved the P1 code onto all of the major components; standing for "Porsche, number one", clearly he was already imagining a dynasty.

What is the Porsche P1?

As you can tell from the pictures, the Porsche P1 is a rather rudimentary affair, but in some respects still seems ahead of its time. The part about it being an electric vehicle is no joke.

In 1898, the P1 took Porsche’s first racing victory, finishing 18 minutes ahead of the next competitor

It’s powered by an electric drive module weighing 130kg, and mounted at the rear of the chassis, just like the engine in a Porsche 911. With 12 speeds plus overdrive, 5hp could be achieved for short periods, giving it a maximum velocity of 21mph. "Travelling speed" was a more sedate 15mph.

All told, the whole machine weighs in at 1,350kg and, thanks to 500kg of that being batteries, offered an impressive maximum range of 49 miles. Consider that most modern electric vehicles barely achieve double that today. Driving time was 3-5 hours.

Cunningly, the wooden chassis supported the "Lohner alternating vehicle body", which meant that it could be clothed as either an open Phaeton design or a coupe. We suspect the wooden wheels and rudimentary suspension made for a bumpy ride, though.


Why and where has the Porsche P1 surfaced in 2014?

Apparently, the Porsche P1 made its first journey around the streets of Vienna in Austria on 26 June 1898.

On 28 September 1899, this very machine took Porsche’s first racing victory – Ferdinand and three passengers completing a 24-mile electric car event in Berlin 18 minutes ahead of the next competitor. The P1 also used less energy than any other entrant. Astonishing.

What’s also astonishing is that this P1 is in unrestored condition, having been put into storage in 1902. Approximately four examples were constructed at the time, but we’re told that this is the original.

It’s now been recovered from the warehouse where it has been hiding for the past 112 years, and will become the centrepiece of an exhibition celebrating five years of the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.

Further fuelling our suspicions about SEO shenanigans, the press release makes certain to mention Porsche’s McLaren P1 rival, the 918 Spyder, which is also taking part in the "newly structured exhibition".

According to Porsche:

"It [the Porsche P1] will bridge the gap between the past and present-day developments such as the Porsche 918 Spyder. The 918 Spyder follows the long tradition to be a technological benchmark that first started 116 years ago with the P1."

The Porsche Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 6pm.

On Bing: see pictures of the Porsche P1 Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton modelFind out how much a used Porsche costs on Auto TraderRead a Porsche review on MSN Cars

By CJ Hubbard, contributor, MSN Cars