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 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.