Car: Lohner-Porsche, 1900, elektromobil

The Porsche name first hit the headlines in 1900, when a groundbreaking new vehicle was unveiled at the World Exhibition in Paris. The 24-year-old Austrian-born engineer Ferdinand Porsche was already showing his brilliance, in this case with electric power.

At the time, electric cars were just as popular as gas-fueled vehicles. The Lohner coachbuilding company of Vienna, a business favored by local nobility, decided to get involved. It had already built a handful of electric machines when Porsche joined the company and persuaded them to make his “Radnabenmotor.”

1899 Lohner-Porsche
With its wheelhub-mounted electric motors, the Lohner-Porsche offered four-wheel drive, and the first gas-electric hybrid drive system.

The vehicle did away with any kind of complicated transmission and bulky driveshaft by turning an electric motor into a wheel hub itself. With two of these at the front, the upright Lohner was a nimble front-wheel drive car.

Lohner-Porsche badge (logo)

Porsche then created the Lohner Mixte— without doubt the world’s first hybrid model of the car Lohner-Porsche. The Mixte added a small gas engine, connected directly to an 80-volt dynamo. This acted as an onboard generator; as it moved along, it produced electricity to power the wheel-mounted motors.

1899 Model car mixte hybrid Lohner-Porsche, elektromobil

However, in Porsche’s ultimate version of the car, a quartet of these electric wheel units gave a very early form of four-wheel drive. Any shortcomings that the car’s transmission might have had were probably not obvious on the poor road surfaces. As a surefooted device for negotiating mountain roads, it was little short of sensational.

“He [Ferdinand Porsche] is very young but is a man with a big career before him. You will hear from him again.”

Jacob Lohner

Video model of the car mixte hybrid Lohner-Porsche, elektromobil

Specification model of the car mixte hybrid Lohner-Porsche, elektromobil

  • PLACE OF ORIGIN: Vienna, Austria
  • HISTORICAL STATUS: production car
  • ENGINE: electric motors and also gas-electric hybrid
  • MAXIMUM POWER: unknown
  • LAYOUT: wheel-mounted electric motors driving the front wheels; rear-mounted engine powering electric motors in all wheels
  • BODYWORK: two- or four-seater open tourer
  • TOP SPEED: unknown
  • NUMBER BUILT: unknown