Vehicles | November 11, 2020 2:02 pm

Porsche Designed a Revolutionary Sustainable Car … in the 1970s

Before sustainability was in vogue, there was the Porsche FLA

Porsche symbol
The emblem of a 1973 Porsche 911. That year, the marque presented the forward-thinking FLA.
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Sustainability is so hot right now. However, the essence of the idea — using fewer natural resources in a responsible way in order to maintain life on this planet — seems to be less important to some companies than the good PR it generates. 

Not so for Porsche. In fact, the German automaker was so ahead of its time in sustainability that it developed a revolutionary long-lasting concept car called the Forschungsprojekt-Langzeit-Auto (or FLA) all the way back in the 1970s. But as Jalopnik details in an intriguing history lesson, the car was so sustainable that it could have put the company out of business. 

It all started with the Club of Rome — a sort of international society of experts devoted to solving the world’s greatest problems — and their 1972 report called The Limits of Growth which “determined that the unchecked growth of the global economy would lead to severe depletion of resources.” Porsche’s response? Develop a car that would last a ridiculously long time. 

Thus, the FLA was born. As Jalopnik describes, it was “a very sober, practical car, not a sports car,” because the innovations came not in power or speed or sex appeal, but in longevity. The engine had a new cooling system, the oil and air filtration systems were highly efficient, and the frame was built from “corrosion-resistant metal, said to be alloys of iron, chromium and nickel” — among other things.

This long-lasting, uber-practical car was reportedly only exhibited once, at the 1973 edition of the International Motor Show Germany, because apparently saving natural resources and efficient design aren’t the kinds of things that get people excited to buy cars. 

Despite not moving forward with the good for the planet but bad for business FLA, Porsche still landed in financial trouble down the line, and they turned to a much different concept car to save them.