In the beginning, there was the horseless carriage, and early engineers used steam and electric to power the embryonic automobile. In 1885 Karl Benz assembled a three wheeler using a gasoline-fueled combustion engine, patented as the Benz Patent Motorwagen the following year. As more early automotive inventors continued to employ the more efficient combustion engine, steam and electric cars gradually faded into history. In modern times, we are faced with dwindling resources and the quest for more efficient vehicles with much less impact on the environment. Automakers, with over a century of technological evolution between them and the original steam and electric cars, as well as strict CAFE laws forcing innovation, are once again aggressively pursuing and manufacturing alternatives to the combustion engine.
The 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance featured a fascinating selection of early steam cars. Here, the 1892 Phillion Road Carriage - the only one ever made - was a steam carriage first using coal then oil for fuel. The two-seater could be steered from both the front and the back.
2015 Volkswagen e-Golf
It’s electric, not steam, but the e-Golf is a compact little fully electric hatch - with a back seat! - and zero tailpipe emissions. Definitely an improvement over coal-powered steam. The VW Owners can even tweak the car’s settings using the Car-Net e-Gold app. The e-Golf will be available at dealers in November 2014 with a MSRP $35,445 for the premium model.