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The First Hydrogen Vehicle Was Not a Car, Train, or Boat

Since the holidays are in full swing, I thought I would get a little nostalgic at this time of year and talk about the history of hydrogen used help people travel. As noted in the headline, the first hydrogen vehicle for carrying people from point A to point B was not a car, train or boat.

The first hydrogen vehicle was actually a manned balloon filled with H2 created by Jacques Alexandre César Charles and flown over Paris, France in 1783. Charles worked with two brothers Anne-Jean Robert and Nicolas-Louis Robert who helped develop part of the balloon.

Approximately 4 months before the first manned hydrogen balloon was flown, an unmanned balloon was flown and it scared the local peasants so much they stabbed it with pitchforks when it landed. The launching of the manned hydrogen balloon was attended by approximately 400,000 people including dignitaries like Ben Franklin.

The manned hydrogen balloon attained a height of about 1,800 feet, stayed in the air about 2 hours and traveled 22 miles outside of Paris.

According to Absolute Astronomy about Charles’ experiments with hydrogen balloons, “He developed several useful inventions, including a valve to let hydrogen out of the balloon and other devices, such as the hydrometer and reflecting goniometer, and improved the Gravesand heliostat and Fahrenheit’s aerometer. In addition he confirmed Benjamin Franklin’s electrical experiments.”

Now, if you’re wondering about the first hydrogen car invented it was by an engineer in Switzerland named Francois Isaac de Rivaz in 1807. Rivaz created a 4-wheel vehicle and the hydrogen oddly enough was contained within a small balloon.

So, with this historical perspective it is not difficult to see that hydrogen vehicles are not a new phenomenon. Instead, hydrogen has been used to carry people around for more than 225 years and will continue to do so for hundreds of years to come.

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