Cugnot got the idea while serving in the army and watching horses pulling heavy pieces of artillery. He wanted an alternative solution to animal traction.
With an overall length of 7.25 metres and a dry weight of 2.8 tonnes (up to 8 tonnes when full), the vehicle used a 1.5-metre wide water tank. Nicknamed the chariot à feu (fire cart), it is known by many as the first-ever passenger car.
A copy of Cugnot's invention built by students at Ecole des Arts et Métiers ParisTech and shown at the 2010 Paris Auto Show revealed that his calculations were all accurate.