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Meet the Electric Porsche From 1898 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the 40-rods-to-the-hogshead dept.
cartechboy writes "We all talk about the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf as if electric cars are brand-new. In fact, electric cars were around long before you were alive, or your father, or maybe even your grandfather. It turns out that the very first Porsche ever built was an electric car--way back in 1898. It wasn't called a Porsche, but an 'Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model'--or P1 for short. Designed by Ferdinand Porsche when he was just 22 years old, it has a rear electric drive unit producing all of 3 horsepower--and an overdrive mode to boost that to a frightening 5 hp! It had an impressive range of 49 miles, not that much less than many of today's plug-in cars. Porsche recently recovered the P1 from a warehouse--where it has supposedly sat untouched since 1902--and plans to display it in original, unrestored condition at the Porsche Museum in Zuffenhausen, Germany."
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Meet the Electric Porsche From 1898

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  • Generalizing much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ugen (93902) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @07:32PM (#46115601)

    Does the article really need to begin with ridiculous generalization?
    "We all talk about the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf as if electric cars are brand-new. In fact, electric cars were around long before you were alive, or your father, or maybe even your grandfather. It turns out...."
    Yes, yes - the readers on slashdot are morons, who have absolutely no idea about most basic technology. "We all" are so dumb, we think the wheel was invented yesterday. Hurr-durr...

    • Next week we'll teach you how the first car above 100km/h was electric.
      Stay tuned shortly afterwards for the amazing discovery of DNA...

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      do you really know when the first electric car was invented without looking it up? it was in the 1830s...

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @07:55PM (#46115755)
      I have repeatedly had people tell me that electric cars are "new technology that needs to be given time to mature." They never react well when I point out that electric cars have been around more or less as long as internal combustion engine cars. So, yes, that beginning was warranted.
      • by westlake (615356)

        I have repeatedly had people tell me that electric cars are "new technology that needs to be given time to mature."

        The modern electric car is quite some distance removed from the lead-acid battery technologies of the 1880s.

        • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @09:39PM (#46116351)
          The modern ICE car is quite some distance removed from the ICE cars of the 1880s as well and no one tries to pass it off as new technology that just needs a few more years to reach maturity.
          • by LordLucless (582312) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @10:27PM (#46116613)

            That's because modern ICE cars have been under continuous development for over a century. Electric cars had a few early models, then languished undeveloped for a hundred years, before we recently started up development of them again.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              "Electric cars had a few early models, then languished undeveloped for a hundred years, before we recently started up development of them again."
              The two main components, the motors and the battery tech, have also been under continuous development.

              There is no magic technology reason that electric cars are suddenly interesting again. It's environmental and fuel price concerns.

              • by Firethorn (177587)

                The two main components, the motors and the battery tech, have also been under continuous development.

                The control system which mates the two wasn't really developed over that time. Most of the motors were hooked up to the grid, and battery packs the size of modern EV's were extremely rare, much less mobile versions.

                There is no magic technology reason that electric cars are suddenly interesting again. It's environmental and fuel price concerns.

                No magic, but I figure the 'bullet' is a combination of LiIon battery technology allowing an EV to finally compete with the unrefueled range of a gasoline vehicle, the development of speed controls that allowed efficient use of AC Induction motors [wikipedia.org] as motor-generators as opposed to less efficient

                • In 1968, MIT students had developed an electronic controller for use in the Great Electric Car Race against Cal Tech. Alas, the controller went up in smoke and they had to use more conventional means for controlling the motor.

                  More generally, variable speed motor control has been important for industry as long as there have been electric motors, and research into controls has been ongoing. Consider for example the thyratron, developed around 1920 and commercialized about 1928.

                  • by Firethorn (177587)

                    Read through the wiki - until relatively recently(we're still talking about decades here) they had to use DC or slip-ring motors, which reduced efficiency, which translates to more batteries needed for a given range, which means more weight and expense.

                    It's a matter of margins and economy more than whether they could actually do it.

            • It's a shame that Abner Doble couldn't have continued with his steam powered cars. [damninteresting.com] Considering what he was able to do with them using 1920-1930's tech, it would be amazing to see what could be done today.
              • Sorry, steam is an inherently inferior technology for motor vehicles. No amount of clever design or money applied to research is going to let steam catch up with the IC engine.
                • Funny. That's what people seem to have thought about electric vehicles for the last 100 years or so.

                  They built a car that got 15 miles / gallon of kerosene and could pass today's California emissions testing. In 1924.

                  • That wasn't very good mileage in 1924 and is horrible now.
                    • It was a 5500 lb car. Which is about what a GMC Yukon Denali weighs. The Yukon gets 16 MPG city.. Since there were no real highways like there are now, I don't think highway mileage is comparable. The Doble got up to 40 mph in 12.5 seconds (at 900 rpm) and had a top speed of 100 mph. A Model T of that area had a top speed of half that and took at least twice as long to reach 40mph. Chrysler put out it's first car in 1924 and it had a top speed of 70 mph. This was such a big deal that they named it the B-70

                • by mjwalshe (1680392)
                  That is what they used to about steam and electic cars before they worked the bugs out of of petrol engines
              • by Khashishi (775369)

                Why would anyone want to go back to steam engines? You still rely on combustion to heat the steam, but it's external combustion instead internal, which means most of the energy is wasted.

            • by FishTankX (1539069) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:52PM (#46116995)

              This may on the surface be true. But the primary technological challenge with electric vehicles is battery technology, and this has been under development for a century and a half. Maybe even 2. Even still, though rechargeable batteries have gone up in capacity maybe 10x, it is still not anywhere near competing with ICE vehicles cost effectively. That will come when the air-chemistry batteries hit the market, with another 10x increase in energy storage per volume/weight due to negating the need to carry your cathode. (or is it anode?)

              • The only electrode that has a potential for a 10X weight improvement is hydrogen, which is difficult to store.
                • http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki... [wikipedia.org]

                  Here Is the wikipedia article on lithium air batteries. If not 10x then atleast gasoline equivalent energy storage is possible. Are you saying that you would need a lithium hydrogen battery to reach 10x potential? The lithium air battery doesn't carry a cathode so it can hold more charge per weight so that's why I assumed it would live up to the 5-15x claim on wikipedia.

              • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

                Even still, though rechargeable batteries have gone up in capacity maybe 10x, it is still not anywhere near competing with ICE vehicles cost effectively.

                Depends who you are. A Model S is already a lot cheaper than an equivalent ICE car over its lifetime due to lower fuel costs (comparing to similar high end saloons). That's excluding subsidies, BTW.

                Some commercial operators like bus companies have already started making significant cost savings by moving to pure electric vehicles too.

            • The reason they "languished" was because every time someone tried to make them a viable option, they ran up against the same constraint: batteries are just not a dense enough energy storage medium. People have been trying off and on since automobiles were first developed to make an electric car that can compete with ICE. So far, they have failed to do so. While that may change, that change does NOT make electric cars a new technology that is just now being developed. It is a technology that has been around
            • by tlhIngan (30335)

              That's because modern ICE cars have been under continuous development for over a century. Electric cars had a few early models, then languished undeveloped for a hundred years, before we recently started up development of them again.

              The early cars were practically all electric or steam driven vehicles - ICE didn't come around until later.

              I think it was Ford that actually got the whole gas infrastructure in place then ICE really took off and everyone abandoned electric and steam. Porsche himself noted that I

        • Some were lead-acid but another popular battery chemistry used was nickle-iron [wikipedia.org] that Edison wanted used for electric vehicles.
        • by mjwalshe (1680392)
          Not really just as a IC engine is not that far removed from ist 19 century forbears GM only relatively recently retired an engine designed well before ww2 that had been in use for 50 years and things like the small block Chevy v8 are fairly old engines
      • Poor Ferdinand Porsche has been rolling in his grave until Elon Musk came along and picked it back up...glad we're back on the right path.
      • by timeOday (582209)

        I have repeatedly had people tell me that electric cars are "new technology that needs to be given time to mature." They never react well when I point out that electric cars have been around more or less as long as internal combustion engine cars.

        And how did you react when a good electric car was finally invented, thus proving your friends had been right all along?

        • "How did you react" is past tense. To have any semblance of reasonableness, you should use future tense, because there is yet to be a good electric car.
          • by mwvdlee (775178)

            Depends on your definition of "good".
            If "good" means "usable in daily live and economically viable" then we've already got good EV cars.
            If "good" means "better than anything before it" then no car will ever be good.

        • My reaction is that there is not yet an electric car which is a viable replacement for my ICE car. Let me know when that changes. Key factor, I need to be able to make a 300 mile trip in a day with four people and their luggage in the car. I also need to be able to make a similar trip the following day.
          • Sounds like taking a Tesla would do it, with adequate charging station support. Charge up each night, do a quick-charge to extend the range during lunch each day, and you're comfortably there.

            • Where exactly am I going to do a quick-charge at lunch when I am on a 300 mile trip? For that matter, I do not really want to take the time for a lunch break on a 300 mile trip. That is not counting the fact that a Tesla costs more than I want to spend on a car.
    • by ezzthetic (976321)

      Any history of motorised transport will mention electric and steam-powered vehicles.

      There's the opening lines of the old folk song "He's Been on the Job Too Long":

      "Well its twinkle, twinkle little star
      And along comes Brady in his 'lectric car..."

    • by operagost (62405)
      It could be worse. Jon Katz could run out of dog material.
    • by Ghaoth (1196241)
      Did the article address /. readers specifically? I think not. You need to calm down a bit before you blow a gasket
    • by RedBear (207369)

      Does the article really need to begin with ridiculous generalization?
      "We all talk about the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf as if electric cars are brand-new. In fact, electric cars were around long before you were alive, or your father, or maybe even your grandfather. It turns out...."
      Yes, yes - the readers on slashdot are morons, who have absolutely no idea about most basic technology. "We all" are so dumb, we think the wheel was invented yesterday. Hurr-durr...

      I may know that the first electric batteries were created thousands of years ago, but I had never realized or come across information that anyone had made a functional electric car so long ago, and with a range of nearly fifty miles, no less. I find this information new, interesting and fascinating. Lacking this information makes me ignorant on this particular subject, not stupid.

      There's only one jackass here making ridiculous generalizations. Knowing a fact that someone else doesn't know does not mean you

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      Hell even the Wikipedia page they link to sucks, as it gives Ferdinand this credit "Porsche was an important contributor to the German war effort during World War II"..yeah, help to the allies! The amount of resources Porsche wasted on the Porsche Panzer and Porsche Tiger was just insane and as far as the Elefant? White Elefant more like it, but this video [youtube.com] spells out the laundry list of fail that was the Ferdinand better than I can.

      As for TFA? Who didn't know there were electric cars in the old days? befo

  • by Anonymous Coward

    > We all talk about the Tesla Model S and Nissan
    > Leaf as if electric cars are brand-new.

    People who don't know history do, I suppose. In the early years, electric, steam, and various fuels were used in cars. It was about 25 years before the internal combustion engine dominated the industry. The first line of the Wikipedia page on electric cars [wikipedia.org] (after defining what one is) says "The first electric cars appeared in the 1880s."

    • Re:Um... (Score:4, Informative)

      by mschaffer (97223) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @07:44PM (#46115687)

      In a country where the chief executive makes claims that the US invented the automobile....yest, it is appropriate to assume we are all ignorant.

      • Re:Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @08:17PM (#46115875)

        In a country where the chief executive makes claims that the US invented the automobile....

        To be fair to Obama, his actual statement was:

        "I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it."

        And Germany has heeded his advice, and not walked away from it. But Obama bugged the phone of Angela Merkel to find that out.

        Now if Obama says:

        "If you like your car, you can keep it."

        . . . you will know that new government regulation to take your car off the road is underway . . .

    • by GrahamCox (741991)
      And in 1899 an electric car set the world land speed record, and was the first car to exceed100km/hr
  • by symbolset (646467) * on Thursday January 30, 2014 @07:50PM (#46115723) Journal
    Might need a fresh waxing.
  • by Megahard (1053072) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @08:09PM (#46115819)

    And there's a great summary of electric vehicles in the US 100+ years ago on his page.

    http://www.jaylenosgarage.com/... [jaylenosgarage.com]

  • Unless the rate of progress speeds up the past might catch up, or even pass us.

    Sadly there are too many inventions that are an improvement upon their successors.

    I wonder if Porsche could use this [johannes-l.net] for inspiration for a future hybrid solar-human vehicle?

  • 3 or 4 days ago?

  • I would've loved to see the state of batteries had the electric car been popular throughout the decades. We've put up with the stone-age ICE for too long, a technology which has and will barely see any improvement relative to batteries which could be so amazing (even in 5000 years, batteries will be the universal way to power portable appliances like the car).
    • Maybe the reason the electric car stopped being popular was because batteries are NOT such a good way to power a "portable appliance like a car"?
      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        You can say that, but it's because oil was just so cheap/readily available.

        • Fuel cost is part of what makes something a 'good way.'

        • As someone pointed out, cost is one of the components in what makes one option better than another. The fact of the matter is that batteries have not had the energy density necessary to be a good option for something like a car. There is some reason to believe that this may have changed with recent developments. Nevertheless, neither electric vehicles nor batteries are new technology which needs to be given a chance to mature in order to see what their potential is. Both are fully mature technologies. It ma
        • Not really. The range and power of internal combustion engines progressed much faster from about 1910 to 1920 than that of electric vehicles. The reason for gasoline and diesel instead of alcohol as a fuel for internal combustion engines was the cheap abundant oil.
          • by mattack2 (1165421)

            ...and originally, wasn't gasoline an *unwanted byproduct* of refining oil for other reasons?

      • by westlake (615356)

        Maybe the reason the electric car stopped being popular was because batteries are NOT such a good way to power...a car?

        To charge a bank of lead acid batteries you needed a convenient source of electric power. That was not a cheap or easy problem to solve once you reached the city limits. Delco-Light Farm Electric Plant [doctordelco.com] It would remain a problem until the great public works projects of the thirties.

        While petroleum products could be conveniently shipped and stored almost anywhere as early as the 1860s.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Turns out it was more like "petroleum was a less bad way to power a portable appliance like a car".

    • by spitzak (4019)

      I feel that in such a parallel universe the batteries being used in about 1940 would be better than the ones we have today.

  • nevermind there were more electric vehicles in widespread use before there were many gas stations 1898 is a pretty early example

    http://insideevs.com/in-early-... [insideevs.com]

  • Sometimes fads repeat themselves.

    In two decades' time, we'll look back on electric cars as a failed experiment.

    Just like last time we tried.

    A battery is one of many possible stores of chemical energy. It's absurd to think that it's the best.

    • by GrahamCox (741991)
      In two decades' time, we'll look back on electric cars as a failed experiment.

      90% efficiency vs. 25% (merely for starters) says you're wrong.

      A battery is one of many possible stores of chemical energy. It's absurd to think that it's the best.

      Maybe, as long as what you convert it to is electrical energy. So, might as well call it a "battery", which actually only means "a collection of cells". It says nothing about what those cells must do.
      • by operagost (62405)
        Efficiency means nothing if you don't have energy density. These vehicles have to move people around in a practical manner. If efficiency was all that mattered, we could use lead-acid batteries.
  • ... I'll settle for a 918 Spyder if its all the same to you.

  • by SuperDre (982372) on Friday January 31, 2014 @05:08AM (#46118187) Homepage

    It's freaky to see that even more than a century ago there already was an electric car (even races were held back then) and development on it just stopped a century ago and we aren't even much further as back then..
    So what's the deal? Why did they stop? And even more interesting, what would an electric car look like these days if they kept on developing it back then.........

    • Development basically stopped on steam and electric vehicles when the performance, range, and convenience of gasoline and diesel vehicles started to rapidly outstrip steam and electrics. People have continued to tinker and work on developing electric cars but battery technology didn't progress as fast as developments for the internal combustion engine. A reasonable summary of the demise of non internal combustion vehicles in the first part of the 20th century can be found on the Stanley Steamer wikipedia pa [wikipedia.org]
    • by Totaku (897723)

      Ferdinand Porsche continued working on electric drives and transmission. See the Elefant and Maus from WW2:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elefant [wikipedia.org]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panzer_VIII_Maus [wikipedia.org]

      • He would be happy to know the current Porsche 918 is quite the performer on battery power, if not exactly a long range car. In pure electric mode, the 918 Spyder accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in seven seconds and can reach speeds of up to 93 mph. Then you start the engine and go REALLY fast :) It also gets around 70+ MPG in city mode if it has been charged up.
    • Gasoline was SO much better as a transportation fuel there is no comparison. Also the invention of the electric starter allowed women and less-than-burly-men to drive gasoline cars easily. 20 gallons of gasoline weigh 120 pounds. They will take the average car around 250-400 miles at highway speeds will running heat or air conditioning. 120 pounds of batteries have a small fraction of that range at best and a dead battery car is hours away from being useable again.
      • by SuperDre (982372)
        Yes, but what IF they had continued development... who knows, maybe we would have had a much bigger impact on battery development.. Most innovations for current electric cars are because companies are now actually researching that area much more where they never had (or at least not with the intensity) before it came popular again..
        • Right now they are leveraging technology pioneered for laptops and cell phones, neither one of which were common in 1915 ;)
  • Some industrial applications demand much more power, but 5 horse power is more than enough for personal transportation. There's no need for cars built like tanks. I get around just dandy with less than a quarter horse power.

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