Beside his work in astronomy, Verbiest also experimented with steam. Around 1672 he designed – as a toy for the Chinese Emperor – a steam-propelled trolley which was, quite possibly, the first working steam-powered vehicle ('auto-mobile'). Verbiest describes it in his work Astronomia Europea. As it was only 65 cm long, and therefore effectively a scale model, not designed to carry human passengers, nor a driver, it is not strictly accurate to call it a 'car'.
Steam was generated in a ball-shaped boiler, emerging through a pipe at the top, from where it was directed at a simple, open 'steam turbine' (rather like a water wheel) that drove the rear wheels.
It is not known if Verbiest's model was ever built at the time, although he had access to China's finest metal-working craftsmen who were constructing precision astronomical instruments for him.
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