At The Beginning

On this day in 1860 Belgian/Luxembourg engineer Jean Joseph Étienne Lenoir was issued a French patent for the first successful internal combustion engine. The engine burned a mixture of coal gas and air. While it was not an Otto four-stroke engine like the one used in the vast majority of automobiles and was primarily used in stationary applications like printing presses and water pumps, Lenoir did put the engine in a few automobiles between 1860 and 1863. From Wikipedia a drawing of Lenoir’s Hippomobile:



Also from Wikipedia more on the four-stroke engine:


“Nikolaus August Otto was a traveling salesman for a grocery concern. In his travels, he encountered the internal combustion engine built in Paris by Belgian expatriate Jean Joseph Étienne Lenoir. In 1860, Lenoir successfully created a double-acting engine that ran on illuminating gas at 4% efficiency. The 18 litre Lenoir Engine produced only 2 horsepower. The Lenoir engine ran on illuminating gas made from coal, which had been developed in Paris by Philip Lebon.”

“In testing a replica of the Lenoir engine in 1861, Otto became aware of the effects of compression on the fuel charge. In 1862, Otto attempted to produce an engine to improve on the poor efficiency and reliability of the Lenoir engine. He tried to create an engine that would compress the fuel mixture prior to ignition, but failed as that engine would run no more than a few minutes prior to its destruction. Many other engineers were trying to solve the problem, with no success.”

“In 1864, Otto and Eugen Langen founded the first internal combustion engine production company, NA Otto and Cie (NA Otto and Company). Otto and Cie succeeded in creating a successful atmospheric engine that same year…In 1872, Gottlieb Daimler was technical director and Wilhelm Maybach was the head of engine design. Daimler was a gunsmith who had worked on the Lenoir engine. By 1876, Otto and Langen succeeded in creating the first internal combustion engine that compressed the fuel mixture prior to combustion for far higher efficiency than any engine created to this time.”

“Daimler and Maybach left their employ at Otto and Cie and developed the first high-speed Otto engine in 1883. In 1885, they produced the first automobile to be equipped with an Otto engine. The Daimler Reitwagen used a hot-tube ignition system and the fuel known as Ligroin to become the world’s first vehicle powered by [a four-stroke] internal combustion engine. It used a four-stroke engine based on Otto’s design. The following year, Karl Benz produced a four-stroke engined automobile that is regarded as the first car.”


Notice some of the names of the people involved: Benz, Daimler, Maybach. I have posited that the internal combustion engine is a long way from the grave. With close to 1.2 billion cars and light trucks that are powered by gasoline or diesel and used/owned by citizens of the world, and with millions more produced every year, an all-electric or all-hydrogen or all-whatever fleet of cars is a long way off. By the way, that is not a political statement, but a statement based on empirical evidence. Those who ignore facts do so at their own peril.





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4 thoughts on “At The Beginning

  1. An electric might make sense for some people, but not for many of us. My sister in law has a Chevy Volt. She is an area manager for a coffee shop chain, yes that one, and drives around 125 miles a day. Myself, I usually drive 150 miles minimum when I head out; checking on jobs our company is doing, surveying future projects, chasing parts, etc. And that doesn’t include moving our work trailers to other job sites. As I try to make needed personal stops on the same trips, an electric would just rot away in my case.
    When they come out with a electric that will tow 15,000 lbs, has a 250 mile range while doing that and can be recharged in 30 minutes, I’ll consider one. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, so I’m gonna have to stick to burning dead dinosaurs.


    1. Thanks, Dirty Dingus McGee, for becoming a regular commenter.

      I suspect that at some point in the next 3-4 decades, the internal combustion engine will be relegated to “dinosaur” status (see what I did there…). It’s not happening by 2025 or 2030 or any other ridiculously arbitrary and unrealistic date.


      1. Glad to be here, and maybe post something of interest.

        The biggest thing I see with the chase to electrics is the future environmental impact. In addition to the mining required for the battery materials, the electricity has to be generated to recharge them. With the war against coal fired plants, the reluctance to build nuclear plants, the limited output of solar panels and the fact NOBODY wants windmills in their backyard, I’m not sure where the power will come from. According to my brother, who lives in a pretty expensive northeast state, their electric bill went up approx $125 per month after they bought the Volt. Another consideration would be the infrastructure to support these chargers everywhere. Electrical lines are designed to carry a certain load (amperage). If the load was to double, all those lines would need to be upgraded. That would involve costs that would be eye popping.

        At my age, I doubt I’ll be around to see any of this change and that’s fine with me. I like my hot rods and other old cars just the way they are.


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