29 January 1886: Karl and Bertha Benz patent the motor car

On this day in 1886 Karl Benz, along with his wife Bertha, patented their Benz Patent-Motorwagen, with a new and revolutionary power source – the internal combustion engine.

On this day in 1886 Karl Benz patented the first internal combustion engine on a motor car. The engine had been in development throughout 1885, and the first ever motor car was available for sale by mid-1886 for $1,000 (something like  $130,000 at 2020 prices). Astonishingly expensive for a very basic vehicle with not much more than the engine and wheels.

However, at a time when horses were still by far the most common means of transport the new vehicle must have seemed as radical as a flying car would today.

The new car was called the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. The patent was financed by Karl Benz's wife, Bertha, however under the law of the day she was not allowed to hold the patent because she was a married woman. The patent itself was not granted until November of 1886 but in accordance to procedure it takes effect from the date of the application.

The engine was very weak. In theory, it had quite a large capacity of 954cc, but it was only able to produce 2/3 horsepower; a modern moped with only 49cc is able to produce in excess of ten horsepower.

But the significance of this car lay in its new and revolutionary engine. It was not the design or any features but merely the fact that the single-cylinder four-stroke engine actually worked in propelling a vehicle.

Bertha Benz chose to publicise the new invention by proving its practicality in a long distance road trip. In early August 1888, she drove a round-trip of more than 96km, or over 60 miles, stopping over at the Wiesloch city pharmacy to take on fuel in the form of ligroin, making it the first ever filling station.

In all, around 25 of the vehicles were built between 1886 and 1893. Karl and Bertha Benz would later go on to found Mercedes-Benz.

Recommended

28 May 1937: the Volkswagen car company is formed
This day in history

28 May 1937: the Volkswagen car company is formed

On this day in 1937, Volkswagen, now the world's second-biggest vehicle-maker, was founded as the 'Society to Prepare the German People’s Car'.
28 May 2021
1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain
This day in history

1 April 1999: The minimum wage is introduced in Britain

On this day in 1999, the national minimum wage was introduced in Britain, bringing an instant pay rise to 1.9 million low-paid workers.
1 Apr 2021
20 March 1602: Dutch East India Company formed
This day in history

20 March 1602: Dutch East India Company formed

The Dutch East India Company – considered by many to be the world’s first multinational company – was founded on his day in 1602.
20 Mar 2021
27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party
This day in history

27 February 1900: The launch of the Labour Party

Responding to the need for a single political party to represent the trade unions, the Labour Party was formed on this day in 1900.
27 Feb 2021

Most Popular

A nightmare 1970s scenario for investors is edging closer
Investment strategy

A nightmare 1970s scenario for investors is edging closer

Inflation need not be a worry unless it is driven by labour market shortages. Unfortunately, writes macroeconomist Philip Pilkington, that’s exactly w…
17 Sep 2021
What really causes inflation? Here’s what prices since 1970 tell us
Inflation

What really causes inflation? Here’s what prices since 1970 tell us

As UK inflation hits 3.2%, Dominic Frisby compares the cost of living 50 years ago with that of today, and explains how debt drives prices higher.
15 Sep 2021
The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest
Small cap stocks

The times may be changing, but don’t change how you invest

We are living in strange times. But the basics of investing remain the same: buy fairly-priced stocks that can provide an income. And there are few be…
13 Sep 2021