Back in 1979, the German Prime Minister announced that coal was the "fuel of the future," and the energy industry was all abuzz about the possibilities, including coal-powered cars. Ha! Gasoline doesn't look so bad now, eh?
German scientists were actually trying to create synthesised gasoline from brown coal, also called lignite, which is the least energy-efficient form of coal that can still actually be called coal. Lignite power plants actually still make up about 25% of Germany's energy sources, though the Germans use far more of the stuff than any other country. The lignite-derived gasoline was supposed to replace oil-based gas as oil prices rose in the 1980s and '90s, and though the prices did rise, lignite never caught on. [Popular Mechanics]