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Fun Facts About the Internal Combustion Engine

The internal combustion engines is the most common powertrain in cars around the world. Although the hybrid and electric car market are gaining popularity steadily, it will likely be a long time before we see the standard combustion engine completely phased out. While they may not sound as cool or as exciting as the electric motors that seemingly lack bounds when it comes to power production and torque, there are still some things to admire about the modest internal combustion engine

A simple process for a complex machine

While the internal combustion engine has many components that seem confusing or maybe even overwhelming when you are first learning about them, the combustion process itself is fairly simple and used in many other applications. Canons, for example, use the same combustion principle to send cannonballs careening through the air. In most cars, this internal combustion process is what drives almost every aspect of your car, from recharging the battery to allow the electric components to operate to more basic concepts like moving the car. 

1968 Egli-Vincent by Godet engine | Bring a Trailer

Engines in outer space

Internal combustion engines can also be used in space, but you may notice there is one major component missing from the equation. In space, there is no oxygen — which is why astronauts have to wear special suits. To get a combustion engine to work in space, spacecraft typically have a separate air tank that is designed to feed the necessary oxygen into the engine to allow for the combustion process to take place. 

GT500 Predator V8 crate engine
GT500 Predator V8 crate engine | Ford

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The first internal combustion engine

While we recognize electric cars as a modern concept, there was a time more than 100 years ago when electric cars were introduced. The technology of the time couldn’t keep up with our growing demand and changes in the automotive market, so the internal combustion engine reigned king for decades. The first internal combustion engine, however, was invented and patented by one Karl Benz, who built the engine as we recognize it in cars today, in a car known as the Benz Patent-Motorwagen

A photo of a vintage Benz & Co. ad depicting the Patent-Motorwagen.
Benz Patent-Motorwagen | Daimler

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Internal combustion engines are fascinating pieces of machinery that have changed dramatically over the years to produce astonishing amounts of power. Combined with the latest technology of electric motors, cars will continue to improve dramatically. Some electric-car fanatics claim that the days of the combustion engine are numbered, but with so much history we sure hope that won’t be for a while still.