Grandpa’s Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are not just in fashion since Tesla’s success, but in fact at the beginning of the automotive history the represented a third of all vehicles. The largest manufacturer of its time was Detroit Electric. Also Austria, Switzerland, and Germany had a lively scene with some of the most famous automotive pioneers working on them. A visit to the Technische Museum Vienna gives an introduction to the history and brings us closer with them, both electric and combustion engine vehicles.

Here the electric vehicle Egger-Lohner Mylord/Coupé from 1898, manufactured in Vienna. Lohner  was originally a coach-maker from Alsace, who was very active in moving from making carriages to becoming an automaker.

In 1911 the Neues Wiener Tagblatt was looking for the oldest automobile in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. The Bregenz marine painter Eugen Zardetti stated that he had purchased a Benz Victoria Vis-à-Vis directly in Mannheim on 19 March 1893. The Technisches Museum Wien immediately set about trying to acquire the vehicle for its collection. Following Zardetti’s death in 1926 the family decided to bequeath the automobile to the Museum. It acquired the title of “first factory-manufactured petrol-driven automobil in Austria”.

Benz Patent Motor Car Victoria Vis-à-Vis
Water-cooled four-stroke single-cylinder engine, 3 hp (2 kW), speed: approx. 20 km/h Benz & Cie, Rehinische Gasmotorenfabrik in Mannheim, 1893

The company known as Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriks-Gesellschaft in the Moravian town of Koprivnice ventured into automobile manufacture in 1897 and launched its first motor vehicle, the Nesselsdorf Präsident (Prezident), in 1898. It was regared as the first factory-built automobile in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. When this successor model came onto the market in 1899, Nesselsdorfer advertises its company as the ‘”monarchy’s first and oldest automobile manufacturer.”  By then the factory was two years old.

Nesselsdorf Präsident successor
Water-cooled four-stroke two-cyliner boxer engine, 9 hp (7kW), Benz system, speed: approx. 48 km/h Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau-Fabriks-Gesellschaft, Koprivnice, 1899-1900

Viennese luxury coach-builders Jacob Lohner & Co., purveyors to the imperial & royal court, began manufacturing automobiles in 1897. The young Ferdinand Porsche, an employee of Béla Egger, was involved in the development of the Eger-Lohner electro-mobile system. In 1899 Lohner decided to take up Porsche’s idea of a wheel-hub motor and terminated his collaboration with Egger. At the Paris World Exposition of 1900 the Lohner-Porsche was celebrated as the “world’s first non-transmission vehicle.” It was also the “world’s first ever Porsche.”

Electric Phaéton, Lohner-Porsche system, model Nr. 27
Internal-pole motors in the front wheels, 2.5 hp (2 kW), speed: approx. 32 km/h Jacob Lohner & Co., Vienna, 1900-1902
A glance into the Jacob-Lohner & Co. plant

And then there was the  Benz Velo-Comfortable automobile.

The controversy (at least in Austria) of who built the first car never really ended. Siegfried Marcus (1831-1898) was born in Mecklenburg into a Jewish family and worked in Vienna as an inventor of electric ignition devices. In 1898 Austrian automobile manufacturers presented the Marcus car as the world’s first car. Arguments raged for a long time over this date attribution. Indeed, both Siegfried Marcus and Carl Benz had been working on an automobile concurrently and independently of each other. Carl Benz presented his patent motorcar in 1886. The Marcus car has since been dated at 1888/1889.

Siegfried Marcus Car
Water-cooled four-stroke single-cyliner engine, approx. 0.75 hp (0.55 kW); speed: 6-8 km/h Märky, Bromovsky & Schulz, Adamov u Brne (Adamsthal), 1888/1889

The collection comprises also the following gems.

This article was also published in German.


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