Long before the invention of the internal combustion engine, people were looking for ways to get around without having to rely on horses. The development of automobiles can be traced back as early as 1700, with people depending on steam power. The first steam engines were massive, so were more commonly found on ships. But as people began to shrink steam engines by orders of magnitude, the vehicles they invented look almost like the cars we have come to know today. So, in the history of automobile manufacture, how did the steam-powered pioneers differ from today’s cars?
Fardier a Vapeur by Cugnot
Designed by Frenchman Nicolas-Joeseph Cugnot as a machine for the transportation of wagons and military equipment, this automobile was built in 1769. Provided to the French army, there were two versions made. Other than small children’s toys, many experts consider this the first true steam powered car. The designer believed that the Cugnot machine could move around four tonnes of materials at speeds of around two and a half miles per hour. However, it only had three wheels and steering was handled by a tiller rather than our modern steering wheel. Due to being a bit unstable and not performing as the army had hoped, the Cugnot vehicle did not last too long.