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(first cars in history)

Arguably Father Ferdinand Verbiest, a Catholic priest invented the first car in the world as it was powered by steam and only 15-inches long in 1687 for the Chinese Emperor Chien Lung. There is another group of people, however that say that French engineer and army officer Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot invented the first car in the world in 1769.

First Car
First Car

The first car that Cugnot made, the "Steamer" like the name implies was a steam-powered artillery tractor. William Murdoch built a steam-powered carriage in 1784. So, in fact, the first car invented or made in all of history was also the first steam car.

Oliver Evans was granted the first American automobile patent in 1789. In 1805 Evans demonstrated the first American car (arguably) which was also an amphibious vehicle. On land it traveled by wheels and in water it used a paddle wheel.

Richard Trevithick, in 1801 was running a full size steam powered car in England. In 1807 Swiss inventor Francois Isaac de Rivaz created the first hydrogen car. It had an internal combustion engine and it ran on hydrogen gas and oxygen. Prague Polytechnich professor Josef Bozek built an oil-fired steam car in 1815. British countryman Samuel Brown in 1826 invented a car with an internal combustion engine fueled by hydrogen and ran it up a hill in England.

In 1838, Walter Hancock built a four-seat steam phaeton steam-powered carriage. In the same year in Scotland, Robert Davidson built an electric train. Around the same time another Scotsman Robert Anderson is credited with building the first electric car. Others would have you believe that American Thomas Davenport built the first electric car in 1834 or 1835.

It Was Hip for that Time ...

Etienne Lenoir of France in 1860 invented the Hippomobile, which was powered by hydrogen. The hydrogen was created by electrolyzing water into hydrogen and oxygen. Siegfried Marcus, an Austrian inventor is credited with inventing the first gasoline car in 1870. Etienne Lenoir who invented the Hippomobile claimed to have invented the first gasoline-powered car as well. Other people credit Karl Benz of Germany with creating the first practical gasoline-powered car called the Motorwagen.

The first diesel engine was invented in 1893 by Rudolf Diesel, way before the first diesel car was invented.

Some say the first production diesel car the Citroën Rosalie, introduced in 1933, was also the first biodiesel car since it could run on vegetable oil as well as petroleum. Rudolf Diesel first demonstrated his engine running on peanut oil.

General Motors inventor William G. Cobb created the first solar car in 1955. The Sunmobile was only 15 inches and had 12 selenium photovoltaic cells on top of the vehicle.

The first solar car that someone could actually ride in was built by the International Rectifier Company in 1958.

This solar car was a 1912 Baker electric car with solar cells on the rooftop.


This is a brief history of the first car invented in history in several different categories. These cars made history at the time and are still relevant now to enthusiasts, car buffs and automotive historians. Check out specific first cars listed on the left navigation panel.