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The first car

By Abhijit Naik


We may have the option of buying cars which boast of the amazing ability to clock a speed of 200mph today, but things were not always the same. Records suggest that quite a few car models existed even before the bug of advanced technology bit the automobile world. Though they were not as advanced as the cars of today are, they were considered to be the marvels of engineering of that era. While the first car with gasoline engine was invented in 1885, the first car with steam engine was invented way before in 1672. That may seem to be a bit confusing, and therefore one has to understand the concept of a car in order to determine which was the first car ever made before moving on to find out when and where was the first car invented.

Which was the first car ever made?

The numerous definitions of a 'car' makes it difficult to ascertain as to who should be accredited for the invention of the automobile. In generic terms, a car is a motor vehicle typically characterized by four wheels and propelled by an internal combustion engine. That, however, doesn't quite solve the problem as there also exist cars which are powered by steam and electricity. More importantly, the vehicles that were invented in the early period had three wheels as opposed to their modern counterparts with four wheels. All this adds to the prevailing confusion about who invented the first automobile. Can a steam powered car qualify to be the first car invented? Should we exclude cars with three wheels from the list? These are some questions which will add to the dilemma that you are likely to face when trying to figure out which was the first car ever made. To make things easy, it is better off to separate one type of car from another and come up with a list of first cars according to the different types.

The first car invented in the world

In 1672, Ferdinand Verbiest - a Flemish Jesuit missionary in China, designed and built a steam powered toy car for the then Chinese emperor. Even though, this car was not meant for human transportation, it did go down the history as the first automobile ever made. Add the concept of human transportation to the criteria, and the credit for the invention of first car goes to the French inventor - Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot for his invention of self propelled vehicle for the use of French army in 1769. In 1789, Oliver Evans got the patent for his steam powered amphibious vehicle, which was the first car invented in America. Electric cars did enter the automobile arena in 1830's, but the high cost incurred on manufacturing and maintaining them proved to be a deterrent and these cars failed to survive in the market. In 1885, the German inventor - Karl Benz created a revolution in the history of automobile industry by inventing first ever car powered by an internal combustion engine. The following year, he got a patent for his invention under the name of his company - Benz & Cie. The three-wheeled car with a four stroke gasoline engine was launched in the market, three years after its invention, in 1888, and thus Karl Benz went down the history as the German inventor who invented the first ever car. With a three wheeled car in the market, it didn't take much time for the four wheeled car to follow the suit. The first four-wheeled car was invented by the duo of Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in 1889. The duo capitalized on their earlier invention - the Daimler-Maybach engine, to introduce the first four wheeled car in the world. As technological advancement entered the automobile arena, concepts which were until then on the paper started materializing. In 1933, Rudolf Diesel invented the first biodiesel car, and named the Citro├źn Rosalie. The first solar car was invented by William G. Cobb, the inventor for General Motors, in 1955, and this was followed by the invention of the first solar car which facilitated human transportation by the International Rectifier Company in 1958.