Classic Cars

Even the First Ever Porsche was Rear-Engined

A young Ferdinand Porsche's first car ever was powered by an all-electric motor.

Ferdinand Porsche was a true automotive visionary. Before he designed the Volkswagen Beetle and started the brand that would bear his name, he was the brilliant mind behind this, the very first Porsche. And, ironically enough, it was an EV. Here’s the story: back in 1889, 22-year-old Porsche designed and built the P1. It had a rear-mounted electric motor that produced just 3 hp. For short periods, 5 hp was possible in overdrive mode, allowing the P1 to hit speeds up to 21 mph.

The buggy-like EV was regulated via a 12-speed control unit and its overall range span was up to 49 miles. The P1 tipped the scales at 2,977 lbs; its engine alone weighed 287 lbs. Porsche began testing the P1 in 1899 in Berlin and actually entered it in an all-electric vehicle, 24-mile race. Along with two other passengers, Porsche piloted the P1 to victory, crossing the finish line 18 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor. More than half of the other participants couldn’t even finish due to technical problems. And now, after sitting in a warehouse for 112 years, Porsche has recovered the P1 and will soon put it on permanent display at its official museum in Stuttgart.

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