Hundreds of car companies … thousands of models … but have you ever wondered which was the first car that was ever made? In this WheelZine article, we will put forth the details of the invention of car.
The broad―and somewhat vague―definition of the term ‘car’ makes it difficult to say which was the first ever car in the world. If we go by the definition which states that a car is ‘a motor vehicle with four wheels’, we will have to include cars with steam engines. Add to it usually propelled by an internal combustion engine, and the concept gets a whole new meaning. In the end, you need to take all the definitions into consideration to come up with the best answer.
Which was the World’s First Car?
The history of the automobile industry can be traced back to a toy car built by the Flemish Jesuit missionary, Ferdinand Verbiest for the Chinese emperor way back in 1672. Even though this steam powered vehicle didn’t facilitate human transportation, it had the distinction of being the first self-propelled vehicle in the world. It took over a century for the development of a vehicle that could actually facilitate human transportation. It was developed by the French inventor Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1769 and was used by the French army.
It took another century for internal combustion engine-equipped vehicle to make its debut. In the meanwhile, the decade of 1830s marked the invention of an electric vehicle, which was developed by the Scottish inventor Robert Anderson. The fact that this crude vehicle was powered by non-rechargeable primary cells proved to be a major hindrance in its promotion, as the heavy maintenance it required kept people away from it.
First Vehicle with Internal Combustion Engine
Eventually, Karl Benz introduced the first ever vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine (ICE) in 1885 and got it patented the following year. Benz’s invention was powered by a four-stroke cycle gasoline engine. A self propelled vehicle with an internal combustion engine! While many people consider Benz’s invention as the first car, others are of the opinion that it was a three-wheeled vehicle, and thus, did not fit the definition of a car. So, the first proper car was developed only in 1889.
First Four-wheeled Car with ICE
The credit for the invention of the first four-wheeled vehicle with an internal combustion engine―something which would ideally fit the definition of a car―goes to Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach. The duo invented this four-speed transmission vehicle in 1889. It was equipped with a Daimler-Maybach engine, which was developed by them in 1886. The engine was one of the most remarkable inventions of that era, as it led to the invention of a full-fledged car, unlike the previously attempted modification of existing vehicles powered by steam and electricity.
That covered one of the most interesting chapters of the automobile history: the invention of the automobile. That being said, you are more likely to come across different sources giving different answers. While some sources would say that it was Karl Benz who invented the first car, others give the credit to Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot. At the end of the day what matters is the definition that you take into consideration, and going by this, the credit of being the inventor of first ever car goes to none other than the duo of Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach.