• Nov 15th 2007 at 12:58PM
  • 4

Click on the Lohrner-Porsche for a high-res gallery

While most people think of Toyota and Honda as the pioneers of hybrid power-train technology, the idea actually goes back many decades before either company existed. The man behind the all-wheel drive Auto Union Grand Prix cars of the 1930s got his start in the auto business before the turn of the twentieth century. Ferdinand Porsche's first car designs were actually electric vehicles with the world's first hub motors. The limitations of battery technology (where have we heard that one before? I guess big oil was suppressing battery tech even a century ago) prompted Porsche to evolve his design into a range extended EV, creating a serial hybrid.

Sitting adjacent to the new Porsche Cayenne Hybrid at the LA Auto Show was the lone remaining example of the original Lohner-Porsche electric carriage. The hub motors on the front wheels put out 2.5 hp continuously and up to 7 hp for short bursts. That's enough for "cruising" at 10 mph with a top speed of 31 mph. The 80V 40 Ah battery could potentially give a range of up to thirty miles. After its debut in 1900, Lohner built and sold over 300 of the pioneering EVs. Porsche later also created the first all wheel drive car when he added the hub motors to the rear wheels.

[Source: Porsche]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      "I guess big oil was suppressing battery tech even a century ago."

      What an ignorant off-the-cuff remark. The whole world was nuts about electricity in the late 19th century. Niagara Falls was the equivalent of Silicon Valley today. Big Oil did not exist in 1899, the first domestic oil strike occurred in 1901.


      The ICE was very much the disruptive technology of the day. It was loud, dirty, smelly and unreliable. Pretty much the only things it had going for it were specific power, rapid fill-ups and acceptable range on a single tank. Even so, the fuel - benzene - had to be bought for a king's ransom at drug stores. Ergo, the Lohner Porsche was not an ICE-based vehicle with electric motors tacked on. Conceptually, it was an electric vehicle in which the ICE genset merely replaced the batteries.

      Only shortly before WWI did ICEs overcome their teething troubles sufficiently to crowd out electric and steam propulsion altogether for the rest of the 20th century.

      Also, it's not as if no-one had tried to improve on batteries in the meantime. It's just that the energy density gap is 1-2 orders of magnitude, ergo no battery chemistry can ever hope to match hydrocarbon fuels on range per unit of mass or volume. No need to wear the tin foil hat, it's just basic electro-chemistry.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Post #1 quote: "It's just that the energy density gap is 1-2 orders of magnitude, ergo no battery chemistry can ever hope to match hydrocarbon fuels on range per unit of mass or volume."

      But battery energy density (by volume or by mass) does not need to match the energy density of gasoline. IC engines are horribly inefficient, about 15% to 30% efficient, while electric motors are routinely over 90% efficient. IC engines also weigh much more and take up more space than electric motors of the same HP rating. The result is that batteries with just 1/5 the energy density of gasoline could propel an EV just as far with no increase in weight. Moreover, we are nowhere near the theoretical limits of battery energy density. Some experimental lithium air cells have already demonstrated energy density nearing that of gasoline, if perfected, they could propel an EV farther than any IC vehicle, while taking up less space and weight than a tank of gasoline.

      Post #3: "A fuel cell operates at a junction temperature of about 800 degrees C"

      There are several types of fuel cells, most operate at much cooler temps, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. PEM fuel cells operate at room temperature and are compact, but require very expensive catalysts and membranes, have durability issues, and must be cooled to prevent overheating. Water control is critical, they must not allow flooding or drying out or freezing. PEM fuel cells were chosen by GM, Honda, Daimler, Ford, Toyota, and Hyundai for their H2 fuel cell prototypes.

      Solid oxide fuel cells and molten carbonate fuel cells are the ones that require high operating temperatures. High temp fuel cells can be more efficient than PEM fuel cells and use less of those expensive catalysts, but slow startup is a problem, as is loss of heat. Both can be designed to run directly on hydrocarbon fuels, which could alleviate the problems of H2 production and storage. Volkswagen is testing solid oxide fuel cells for automotive use.

      Other types are considere unsuitable for automotive use. Phosphoric acid fuel cells do not produce enough power. Alkaline fuel cells are very vulnerable to CO2 poisoning and require pure H2 and pure O2.

      BTW, low temp fuel cells do not produce NOx, and the catalysts in high temp fuel cells destroys NOx almost as fast as it is produced.
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      The concept of perpetual motion continues, sadly it is unlikely to eventuate while I am breathing. A battery has finite life, hydro-carbons are a finite resource, bad luck on both counts.

      The miraculous fuel cell that is going to produce electricity out of hydrogen also produces nitrogenous compounds when the hydrogen is combined with atmospheric air at high temperature. Anyone with a bit of year seven chemistry can see that one from a mile back. Water vapour at the exhaust of a fuel cell only occurs if the hydrogen is combined with pure oxygen, the air we all breathe is 80% nitrogen hence nitrous oxide or worse at the exhaust.

      We have to look a little harder at the hybrid, we have to start thinking like engineers and scientists again and stop kidding ourselves that we can go on wasting the essentials of life in such a profligate manner.

      A fuel cell operates at a junction temperature of about 800 degrees C, maybe we should be looking at it as a source of heat as well as a source of electricity. Maybe if we ran a bit of water around the junction we'd get enough steam to run an engine. We really have to stop looking at cars as cars and start to think of them as compound devices.

      Here's a thought, you run the household (heating and electricity) off the fuel cell in the vehicle and when you head off to work the vehicle plugs into the grid and just keeps on making up the energy you use in your office or workplace.

      But it's not likely to be an electric hybrid, a fuel cell and a steam engine makes a lot more sense than increasing the mass of the vehicle to carry batteries that can't be efficiently recycled and are probably potentially a greater source of pollution than lead in gasoline ever was. Also vehicle mass is a major contributor to increased energy requirements to operate the vehicle. Simply put, a lighter vehicle uses less fuel. We really have to start looking at a bigger picture and plan a path for the future, either that or get used to going about on bicycles.
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