A steam car is a car (automobile) propelled by a steam engine. A steam engine is an external combustion engine (ECE) in which the fuel is combusted outside of the engine, unlike an internal combustion engine (ICE) in which fuel is combusted inside the engine. ECEs have a lower thermal efficiency, but carbon monoxide production is more readily regulated. The first steam-powered vehicle was supposedly built in 1672 by Ferdinand Verbiest, a Flemish Jesuit in China. The vehicle was a toy for the Chinese Emperor. While not intended to carry passengers, and therefore not exactly a "car", Verbiest's device is likely to be the first ever engine-powered vehicle. The first experimental steam-powered cars were built in the late 18th and 19th centuries, not until after Richard Trevithick had developed the use of high-pressure steam around 1800, that mobile steam engines became a practical proposition. By the 1850s it was viable to produce them commercially: steam road vehicles were used for many applications.
Development was hampered by adverse legislation from the 1830s and then the rapid development of internal combustion engine technology in the 1900s, leading to their commercial demise. Relatively few steam-powered vehicles remained in use after the Second World War. Many of these vehicles were acquired by enthusiasts for preservation. The search for renewable energy sources has led to an occasional resurgence of interest in using steam power for road vehicles.