It seems that every car manufacturer today has a hybrid version of each of their product lines. Toyota started the market stampede to hybrids with their Prius introduction in the US in 2000. Great car with great technology, but who beat them to the punch by 100 (yes, 100!) years? Give up? Well, how about...Porsche? here's the story in a nutshell:
Ferdinand Porsche was born in 1875 in a German speaking region of Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia). In 1893 while working for the electrical company Bella Egger in Vienna he developed the hub motor, essentially an electric motor that doubled as a wheel for a powered vehicle. An elegantly simple idea, really, combining the wheel and the ability to rotate it in a powered manner all in one device.
Five years later Porsche starts working for Lohner, a manufacturer of coaches for the crowned heads of Europe. The transition from horse drawn personal transportation to self-powered vehicles is now in full swing. Late 1800’s versions of today's gasoline powered cars were a nasty piece of work; they were noisy, smoked, rattled, shook and leaked oil and fuel. Also, power wise, they were feeble and unreliable. How they came to dominate personal transportation in the next 25 years is another story altogether. Getting back to the point, Lohner needed an elegant solution for their elegant, crown-headed customers. Enter Porsche with his silent, smooth hub motor solution.
So, in 1898 Lohner produced an all electric vehicle of Porsche design; the front wheels were motors and the chassis was one big battery pack. So they now had a smooth, quiet, self powered carriage vehicle acceptable to the gentry. They then even put motors in all four wheels too, which became the first four wheel drive car; take that, Jeep! After a few years a better solution was needed as the large ( think king-size bed large) battery packs were very heavy and the range was too short (the same issues we face today in pure electric cars, short range and battery weight).
Porsche's technical solution was his Mixte system, where a small combustion engine ran a generator to charge a smaller battery pack, which then powered the hub motors; bingo, the first series hybrid had arrived. Now today, a century later, all hybrids follow the same series-hybrid principles (as well as all diesel-electric locomotives, by the way) although the electric motors used today aren't built into the wheels.
So, what “new” isn’t really so new after all, is it?
Thank you, Dr. Porsche.