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Porsche Brings Back The 1898 'P1'

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While the first Porsche to officially wear the badge was the Type 356 from 1948, the first Ferdinand Porsche design actually hails from much earlier times--a whole half century before the famous four-cylinder, rear-engined 356.

Known as the P1--and also by its longer name, the "Egger-Lohner electric vehicle, C.2 Phaeton model", Porsche has liberated the 115-year-old car from a warehouse, where it has lain unused and dormant since 1902. Designed and built in 1898 by a 22-year-old Ferdinand Porsche, the vehicle made its first journey in Vienna, Austria, on June 26 that year. Like later Porsches, the design features a rear-mounted powertrain and rear-wheel drive, but that's where the similarities end--since this vehicle is electric powered.

The electric motor weighs a hefty 287 pounds and develops a modest 3 horsepower--or 5 horsepower using a brief overdrive. The battery too is large and weighty, at 1,103 pounds. The O1 It isn't quite the performance machine of later Porsches then, but by the standards of the day the P1 had plenty in reserve, and a 21 mph top speed. Vehicle speed is regulated by a 12-speed control unit and the 2,977-pound machine had a range of up to 49 miles--not a great deal behind some modern electric vehicles.

Back in its day, electric power was appreciated for the same reasons it is today--silence and smoothness. Reliability was a factor too, given the wildly unreliable and noisy gasoline and steam-powered vehicles of the time. Its performance was good enough to win a race too, completing a 24-mile run through the streets of Berlin in September 1899. With three passengers on board, the P1 completed the race 18 minutes ahead of its nearest competitor, and used the least energy too. It seems race-winning success isn't just limited to modern Porsches...

The P1 now goes on permanent display in the Porsche Museum, which opened in 2009. It'll act as a centerpiece to an exhibition highlighting Porsche's design and motorsport history--a counterpoint to the most advanced modern vehicles Porsche produces, such as the new 918 Spyder.

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