Diesel 101: History of the Diesel Engine and Who Invented it

Diesel 101: History of the Diesel Engine and Who Invented it

Global market demand for all types of diesel engines is expected to rise at an unprecedented rate through 2025. In other words, diesel engines aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

But how long have they been around? Who invented the diesel engine? If you've ever wondered about the history of the diesel engine, we're about to tell you.

And it even includes a mysterious death.

The Beginning

The diesel engine was invented during the industrial revolution by a German engineer. Rudolf Diesel grew up in France but then left for England during the Franco-German war. After the war, he returned to Germany to study engine design. 

In the 1880s, the most significant inventions were all centered around steam. Steam engines used a lot of coal, were very expensive, and extremely inefficient. Big companies could afford them while little businesses were struggling to keep up. 

By studying thermodynamics, Diesel found he could make a smaller, internal combustion engine that would convert all heat into work. This engine proved to be revolutionary among the steam-powered engines and horse-drawn carriages of the 19th century.

The Middle

Rudolf Diesels spent the next several years working on his designs. Among them, was a solar-powered engine, an internal combustible engine, and one that theoretically could turn 75% of the heat into energy.

He set out to prove his theory that his engine could be 75% effective. While he failed at getting such a remarkable result, he did get an engine that was 25% efficient which was twice as good as any of his rivals.

The problem with the first diesel engines is they proved to be unreliable. While a lot of people bought his engines, many ended up bringing them back and asking for a refund. This led Diesel into a financial hole that he could never escape.  

One place where Diesel found success was with the military because diesel fuel was heavier and was less likely to explode. In 1904, the French army started using diesel engines in their submarines.

The End

In 1913, Rudolf Diesel was on his way to meet with the British navy to broker a deal about installing his engines on their submarines. Somewhere over the English Channel, Diesel went overboard.

Some believe that he jumped because of his financial struggles. Others thought that he was thrown over.

Some of the more popular theories around his death include:

  1. Other countries didn't want his patents to be used to aid the British Government.
  2. Big petroleum companies felt threatened because he believed in using vegetable oil.
  3. Coal magnates were worried steam was becoming irrelevant.
  4. The German military was worried he was going to share their new and deadly U-boat designs.

History of the Diesel Engine

The history of the diesel engine is full of innovation and mystery. Unfortunately, Diesel wasn't around to see the real reach of his invention. 

Eventually, armies would use them for everything from trains to boats to trucks. In addition to military use, diesel engines are used to power pipelines, water plants, civilian cars and truck, marine crafts, factories and more.

Diesel engines have changed the way the world works as they allow for bigger boats, more powerful engines, and more trading overseas.

Now there are diesel engine enthusiasts. If you happen to be one of those enthusiasts, come check us out. We've got all the latest and greatest gear for your diesel engine truck.  


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