Siddhant Raghav: Was the Automobile invented in France or Germany??

Starting off from the Very basic, What is Automobile?? From Where did it came from??When it came in Existence??

The Word AUTOMOBILE came from Ancient Greek Word  αὐτός (autós, “self”) and the Latin Word Mobilis(“movable”), meaning a vehicle that moves itself. This Word was First Adopted in English in the Year 1899,by The New York Times.

When Was the First Automobile Built?

The Benz Patent-Motorwagen (or motorcar), built in 1886, is widely regarded as the first automobile; i.e, a vehicle designed to be propelled by a motor. The vehicle was awarded the German patent, number 37435, for which Karl Benz applied on January 29, 1886. Following official procedures, the date of the application became the patent date for the invention once the patent was granted, which occurred in November 1886. Benz officially unveiled his invention to the public on July 3, 1886,on the Ringstrasse in Mannheim,Germany.

Daimler and Benz are traditionally credited with building the first car in 1886, but the French claim it was first built in 1884 by Delamare-Deboutteville. Still others claim it was built in 1860. It all depends on your definition of a car.

When Daimler-Benz (makers of Mercedes-Benz cars) says that the automobile was invented in 1886 by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler, it’s basing its claim on its own definition: a light carriage for personal transport with three or four wheels, powered by a liquid-fueled internal combustion engine.

But even by that definition, the French have a prior claim: Belgian-born Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir, who settled in Paris and became a naturalized French citizen, invented his gas engine in 1858 and patented it in 1860. He used electric spark ignition, but the engine ran on stove gas and had no compression. It was shown to the press in a three-wheeled cart in 1860. A liquid-fuel version, with a primitive carburetor, was built in 1862 and installed in a three-wheeled wagon early in 1863. It is on record that it successfully covered the 11.2 miles from Paris to Joinville-le-Pont and back, securing its place in history as the first spark-ignition petroleum-fuel car to demonstrate its roadworthiness.


Deboutteville and his Work:

Deboutteville was 22 years old, when he went to work in his brother’s textile plant just outside Rouen,France. A year later, in 1879, he invented a Universal Machine capable of cutting, milling, drilling, and turning. He became interested in the internal combustion engine primarily as a source of power to run the machinery in factories, and secondarily for propelling road vehicles.He was aware of the patents of Beau de Rochas and Lenoir, and also knew of Otto’s patent.




So the Question Arises who is Beau de Rochas & Nikolaus August Otto…??

Alphonse Beau de Rochas was a self-taught civil engineer working in a laboratory in Paris. In 1861, he was the first to spell out the Sequence of the four-stroke cycle and provide a theoretical pressure diagram — but he never built an engine. He received French patent No. 52,593, dated Jan. 16, 1862.

As Far as Nikolaus Otto was conserned most of us know about him,but for those who doesn’t here’s a bit about him:

Nikolaus August Otto was a merchant who dropped out of business to experiment with gas engines at the age of 22. He had an atmospheric gas engine running in Cologne in 1862 and began production, selling about 50 units a year. Realizing the value of compression, he also invented charge-stratification. His first experimental four-stroke engine ran in 1876, and his patent (No. 532) is dated Aug. 4, 1877.


So Coming back to The German-French Spat…

Deboutteville’s first engine was a single-cylinder four-stroke unit, built early in 1883. It ran on stove gas, but Deboutteville had also created a carburetor for running on liquid (petroleum) fuels. The outstanding things about his engine were:


  • Coil-and-battery ignition, with a sparkplug.
  • Mechanically operated overhead intake and exhaust valves.
  • High compression ratio.

This engine was put in a three-wheeled vehicle that was destroyed in an accident. Undaunted, Deboutteville built a four-wheeled car with a two-cylinder engine.The vehicle was a modified horse-drawn wagon, but the new engine was note worthy for the following:


  • Pistons with rings
  • Provision for air- or water-heating of the carburetor
  • Air- or water-cooling of the cylinders
  • Speed control on the intake manifold
  • Exhaust muffler
  • Progressive clutch

It is certain that the car was built, but the evidence that it ever ran is weak.

So this way Deboutteville’s Patent went Un-Noticed and his hard work went in vain.

Pity for the French Guy,even though what he proposed was extremely well though but he has to give up on all his experiments,So that he can concentrate on making a living.Even though he had Solutions to all the basic problems.Then He became a manufacturer of industrial engines, but had nothing more to do with automobiles.


In the mean time, if the German Guys would have known about the Work done by Deboutteville,they could have gained a lot.As their First Vehicles was Primitive in several regards.



Daimler’s engine from 1885 was a vertical single-cylinder of 462-cc displacement, delivering 1.1 hp at 650 rpm. It had a suction-operated intake valve and hot-tube ignition. It had an evaporative “surface” carburetor, and the speed control was a butterfly valve mounted on the exhaust pipe. He did not design a car for it, but installed it in a horse carriage with a centrally pivoted front axle. And it did not run in 1886. The first test drive took place on Mar. 4, 1887.

In 1885 Karl Benz turned his attention to a Four-Stroke Cycle. He put a slide valve on the intake port and fired its sparkplug from a high-tension coil. The mixture was produced in a surface carburetor, and he put a speed governor on the intake side. The single-cylinder Benz engine had 954-cc displacement and delivered 0.67 hp at 250 rpm.


The So called “CAR” Benz designed around the engine was a light three-wheeler with belt drive, which first ran on the streets of Mannheim in June 1886.


So the Question remains :Was the automobile invented in France or Germany?

The argument may never be resolved to the satisfaction of both sides.One thing to bear in mind is that the car is not one invention but a mechanical creation composed of hundreds, if not thousands, of inventions.Being honest we are still inventing the car, for the car is an ever-changing assembly of ideas, systems and parts. In the past 100 years, the French contribution to its advance has been as significant as that of the Germans.



                                                                                                                                                -Siddhant Raghav


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