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First Hydrogen Car

The first hydrogen car invented was not a fuel cell vehicle (FCV) but rather an internal combustion engine. Swiss inventor Francois Isaac de Rivaz in 1807 designed the first 4-wheel prototype (pictured) that ran on hydrogen and oxygen gas. The hydrogen gas was contained in a balloon and the ignition was an electrical Volta starter.

 
First Hydrogen Car
 

Half a century later in 1860, Frenchman Etienne Lenoir developed the 3-wheel Hippomobile. The Lenoir Hippomobile was propelled by a 1-cylinder, 2-stroke engine. The hydrogen was created for the car by electrolyzing water and the resulting gas was run through the horizontal engine.

The next hydrogen car invented was in 1933. Norway's Norsk Hydro power company converted a small truck. The truck carried an ammonia reformer that extracted hydrogen and then burned this in its internal combustion engine.

Leap forward to 1941 and World War II. Out of dire need Russia's Boris Shelishch converted 200 GAZ-AA trucks to run on hydrogen. Germany's Nazi army had surrounded Leningrad, Russia so Shelishch converted the trucks to run on hydrogen gas, which burned cleaner and ran longer than those which had run on gasoline.

Fast forward a bit to 1959 and Harry Karl Ihrig converted an Allis-Chalmers farm tractor to create the first fuel cell vehicle in history. The vehicle contained 1,008 tiny alkaline fuel cells and the tractor is now harbored in the Smithsonian Institute.

In 1966 it was a banner year for both hydrogen internal combustion engines and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Roger Billings converted a Model A Ford to run on hydrogen with its internal combustion engine. In addition, General Motors created the GM Electrovan fuel cell vehicle, which is considered by many to be the first FCV passenger automobile of record.

Since this time, both hydrogen internal combustion vehicles have been created along with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. In more recent times, the industry has opted for FCV's since they can be up to 80-percent efficient (compared to 25-percent of a internal combustion engine), are quiet running, and there are zero emissions (the only byproduct is heat and steam).


 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 


 

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