The Lohner-Porsche Mixed Hybrid: The First Electric Vehicle

The Lohner-Porsche Mixed Hybrid: The First Electric Vehicle 

Imagine seeing the first electric vehicle when most of your experience was with carriages pulled by horses or the already amazing “horseless carriages” fueled by gas. 

That’s what happened around the turn of the 20th century when the Lohner-Porsche mixed hybrid vehicle was introduced. It caused quite a stir around Europe. 

Who was behind the creation of this new type of vehicle and were they going to be available to the public? 

If you’re ready to find out then let’s dive in. 

Who created the Lohner-Porsche Mixed Hybrid? 

A 23-year-old gentleman named Ferdinand Porsche from North Bohemia, Austria-Hungary was hired by Jacob Lohner to come to Vienna to engineer an electric powertrain for his coaches. This was Porsche’s first job and he had no higher education in engineering. 

While working at Lohner-Werke, Porsche developed a drivetrain with low-friction by mounting the electric motors to the hubs. These motors directly drove the wheels. Each motor had the capability of 2.5 to 3.5 horsepower and up to a maximum of 7 horsepower for short bursts. In the beginning, the “System Lohner-Porsche” prototypes were two-wheel drive. 

We agree Porsche was ahead of his time when it came to engineering electric motors. 

The history of its creation 

Following the announcement of Lohner-Porsche’s electric powertrain, a coachbuilder from Great Britain put in an order. His name was E.W. Hart. 

Hart, however, had some modifications he wanted for his Lohner-Porsche “Electromobile.” He required that this electric vehicle run on gas as well, thus the hybrid electric vehicle idea was born. 

It was to seat four passengers and include four-wheel drive. Porsche got to work. 

The result of Hart’s dream car was the first Lohner-Porsche mixed hybrid vehicle and nicknamed La Toujours Contente (French for “always satisfied”). And satisfied he was. He entered it in the Paris Expedition in 1900. 

Hart’s Lohner-Porsche mixed hybrid required almost two tons of 80 volt, lead-acid batteries that had to be encased in a spring-suspended container to protect the cells. These batteries powered 1,280 pounds of electric motors. The four motors were mounted on each of the hubs and created the power to move this nearly 4.4 tons of vehicle. 

The four-speed vehicle was huge and heavy, but the battery capacity of 270 amp hours and 56 horsepower could move it, even on its pneumatic tires. 

So, what did the Lohner-Porsche mixed hybrid vehicle cost? In 1898 it cost 15,000 Austrian Crowns which was about USD 1,250. That’s about $38,000 in 2020—quite a lot of money for that era. 

The problems with the first mixed hybrid 

Although Hart wanted his new Lohner-Porsche mixed hybrid vehicle for racing competitions, he didn’t take into account how heavy it was. 

In December 1900 he entered it into an endurance trial of the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland. It was one of 11 entered. Even though Ferdinand Porsche was driving, he only made it 34 miles and suffered multiple tire failures during the first run. It just wasn’t made for competition or rough roads. 

The winner was lighter and had tires with a greater diameter. This car made it 59 miles with an average of 10 miles per hour. 

Competitors complained of the rain, wind, mud, and rutted course. On top of his vehicle’s failures, Porsche caught a severe cold from driving in the bad weather and could no longer compete in any more runs at the endurance trial. 

It was an all-around disappointment. 

Defeated but still determined 

Despite the poor performance of the Lohner-Porsche mixed hybrid and the fact that it was financially out-of-reach of the general population, the engineering of the drivetrain was revolutionary. 

Lohner was able to use the technology for larger commercial vehicles such as double-decker buses and fire engines. He even built electric vehicles for the Emperor of Austria, as well as the kings of Norway, Sweden, and Romania. 

Lohner-Porsche sold over 300 vehicles from 1900 through 1906. 

Porsche continued to race, supported by Lohner. In 1905 he won Austria’s Potting Prize, an award for “most outstanding automotive engineer.” 

Since then, Boeing and NASA studied and emulated the concept of the Lohner-Porsche mixed hybrid for the Apollo program’s Lunar Roving Vehicle. Even modern-day electric vehicle manufacturers are interested in this technology. 

Wouldn’t you agree that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? We think so. 

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