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In 1807 Nicéphore Niépce and his brother Claude probably created the world's first internal combustion engine which they called a Pyréolophore, but they chose to install it in a boat on the river Saone in France. Coincidentally, in 1807 the Swiss inventor François Isaac de Rivaz designed his own 'de Rivaz internal combustion engine' and used it to develop the world's first vehicle to be powered by such an engine. The Niépces' Pyréolophore was fuelled by a mixture of Lycopodium powder (dried spores of the Lycopodium plant), finely crushed coal dust and resin that were mixed with oil, whereas de Rivaz used a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen.[15] Neither design was very successful, as was the case with others, such as Samuel Brown, Samuel Morey, and Etienne Lenoir with his hippomobile, who each produced vehicles (usually adapted carriages or carts) powered by internal combustion engines.

In November 1881, French inventor Gustave Trouvé demonstrated a working three-wheeled automobile powered by electricity at the International Exposition of Electricity, Paris.