I was browsing the Wikipedia page on automotive history the other day and was surprised to learn a few very interesting things.

Hydrogen powered cars using fuel-cell technology is all the rage. There are many who believe that this may be the future of cars. But did you know that one of the very first cars with an internal combustion engine was fueled by hydrogen?

The Franco-Swiss inventor François Isaac de Rivaz designed and built one of the first self-propelled cars in 1808. The “de Rivaz engine” was a reciprocating engine and is considered to be one of a number of engines that has a legitimate claim to being the world’s first internal combustion engine. Like the modern engines of today, the designed included a spark ignition, but used hydrogen gas as the fuel source.

The “de Rivaz engine”

Speaking of the hydrogen fuel cell, did you know that it was discovered in principle by Christian Friedrich Schönbein and William Grove in 1838? In several letters published by The London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science in December 1838 and in June 1839, the two scientists separately discussed their fuel cells that each had invented. The published letters discussed the electrical currents that were generated from hydrogen and oxygen when dissolved in water. The specific fuel cell invented by Grove used similar materials to those found in today’s phosphoric-acid fuel cell.

William Grove’s 1839 Fuel Cell Drawing

However, even before François Isaac de Rivaz hydrogen powered engine came along, the steam powered monster called the “fardier à vapeur” was in operation in 1770. Invented and built by French Army Captain Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, he claimed that the fardier à vapeur was able to carry four tons and had a top speed of 4.8 miles per hour (7.8 km/h), although in actuality it would only do 2.25 miles per hour (3.6 km/h).

François Isaac de Rivaz hydrogen powered engine

The first gasoline (petrol) powered engine came in 1870, when Siegfried Marcus placed his two-cycle combustion engine on a pushcart. In his 15 years of engine building, Marcus designed progressively sophisticated four-cycle combustion-engines that had carburetors and a magneto ignition system. He even developed cars with steering, a clutch system and brakes.

Siegfried Marcus Petrol Car 1875

Of course, who can forget about the contribution of Karl Benz? Starting in 1885, he developed a single cylinder two-stroke gasoline (petrol) powered engine, which was used in what is widely considered to be the first “production” vehicle ever built.

1885 Benz Patent Motorwagen

So did you know about these interesting facts about automotive history? If not, here is a great link that will lead you to more information:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_automobile

Keep driving my friends! All photos are courtesy of Wiki Commons.

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