Become an armchair expert on... Ferdinand Porsche
Alex Goy is a freelance motoring journalist who writes for the likes of Motor1, Carfection, CNET and DriveTribe.
There have been lots of Ferdinand Porsches. How much do you know about the one who started it all though?
Ferdinand Porsche had no higher engineering education
Growing up as the son of a professional panel beater in the later 1800s meant a university education wasn’t high on ‘ol Ferdinand’s list of ‘things that are likely to happen.’
However, he showed an talent for technical work from a young age, and managed to get a job at the Béla Egger Electrical Company at age 18. He did sneak some lectures at Vienna’s local university after hours, though didn’t earn a degree there.
Later in his career he was given an honorary doctorate from the Vienna University of Technology, and the Stuttgart Technical University. The latter institution made him an honorary Professor as well.
He pioneered electric cars before Elon Musk was a twinkle in his father’s eye
Porsche's first electric powered car
Before the turn of the 20th century he’d invented the electric hub motor, making him (kinda) the inventor of electric propulsion.
The first electric car to use his hubs was an Egger-Lohner – the hub motors meant the car could come with two or four wheel drive, and it was supposedly pretty brisk.
However, Porsche’s invention was limited by the tech of its time. The lead acid batteries used to power it were too heavy and too short on charge to make it viable.
His EV didn’t work, but his hybrid did
You thought the Prius was the first hybrid? Nah mate. It was the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid from 1901. Using Porsche’s hub motors and an internal combustion engine as a generator, the petrol electric hybrid was born.
Ok, it’s a series hybrid rather than the parallel jobs that are common today, but still… smart stuff. They’d clock in excess of 35mph as well.
Ferdinand Porsche with his son Ferry in 1934
His own company was formed in the 30s
Thanks to a collapsing economy work was thin on the ground, so Porsche went to Stuttgart in the early 1930s to form his own consultancy and design firm.
The company did okay considering the time, and ended up with some work from the government. The Nazi government. Porsche was the man behind the Beetle, linked to the Auto Union racers, and even designed some tanks.
Porsche was the man behind the Volkswagen – the car that would become known as the Beetle
Post WWII he was sent to prison
Porsche and others were held after the second world war as war criminals. The reasons for why vary from account to account, but he spent 22 months behind bars before being found not guilty of the charges against him.
Upon release he went back to work and built the foundations of the Porsche we know today before passing away in January 1951.
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