Given society’s addiction to cars it’s highly appropriate that the world’s first filling station was a drugstore. And it’s still standing. Stadt-Apotheke – or Town Pharmacy – in Wiesloch, south of Heidelberg, Germany, was where Bertha Benz first refuelled her husband’s Motorwagen. Her husband, of course, was Karl Benz. His 1886 patent for a horseless carriage is the first for an automobile designed to produce its own power. It was a tricycle with a motor, and used spoked-wire wheels, differential gears, and chains widely used on the bicycles of the day. Benz was a bicyclist.
In August 1888, without her husband’s knowledge, Bertha took the third version of the car for its first long-distance journey, a 65 mile drive on rough roads from Mannheim to Pforzheim, the world’s first long car journey. (Coincidentally, the world’s first bicycle journey was started in the same town, by Baron Von Drais, back in 1817).
The Benz Patent Motorwagen was powered by a form of petrol but this combustible liquid was not widely available. Sold under the brand name Ligroin, the fuel which powered the Benz car was petroleum ether, a cleaning agent.