A Brief History of Cars

The automobile or motor car was not invented in one day by one inventor. The history of automobile reflects the evolution that occurred globally and a lot can be pointed that happened along the history. An estimate shows that more than 100.000 patents are behind the creation of the modern.

The word automobile comes from the French “automobile” and from the Ancient Greek word ”autos” which means self. This means that a vehicle that moves itself rather than being pulled or pushed by a separate animal or another vehicle. The famous inventors – Leonardo Da Vinci and Isaac Newton developed the first theoretical plans of a motor vehicle.

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The first self-propelled road vehicle in the shape of a military tractor which was invented a French engineer – Nicolas Cugnot. He used a steam engine for powering the vehicle; it was built under his guidance at the Paris Arsenal by a mechanic named Brezin. The French Army used this vehicle for hauling artillery at a speed of 2.5 mph with only three wheels. The short coming of the vehicle was that it had to halt after every fifteen minutes for gaining steam power. The following year of 1770 saw the invention steam-powered tricycle by Cugnot.

Cugnot was the first to suffer a motor vehicle accident when he struck his vehicle into a stone wall in 1771. His bad luck started when one of his patron died and the other was exiled, with this he ran out of money for his road vehicle experiment.

Steam engines generated power in cars by the burning of fuel which heated water in a boiler, this pushed the pistons which turned the crankshaft ultimately turning the wheels. The early history shows that self-propelled including road and railroad were both developed with steam engines.

Steam engines made the road vehicles very heavy and the designed proved poor. Although with the use of steam engines in locomotives was very successful. Historians who accept the early steam-powered road vehicles were automobiles believe that Nicolas Cugnot was the first inventor of automobiles.

Several inventors designed steam-powered vehicles after Cugnot

  • A French named Onesiphore Pecquer improved Cugnot’s vehicle and he was also the inventor of first differential gear.
  • Oliver Evans was granted with the first US patent for a steam-powered land vehicle in 1789.
  • Richard Trevithick built the first steam-powered road carriage in Great Britain in 1801.
  • Steam-powered stagecoaches were in regular service in Great Britain from 1820 to 1840. They were later banned from public roads and as a result the British railroad system was developed.
  • The steam-driven road tractor was invented by Charles Deitz. It could pull passenger carriages around Paris and Bordeaux till 1850.
  • Rufus Porter, William T. James, Joseph Dixon and Harrison Dyer were credited with the invention of numerous steam coaches in the United States from 1860 to 1880.
  • Advanced steam cars were invented by Amedee Bollee Sr. from 1873 to 1883.
  • A professor of physics at Wisconsin State University and J. I. Case Company named Dr. J. W. Carhart invented a working steam car that won a 200-mile race.

The early electric cars

The early automobiles did not use only the steam engines. Vehicles with electrical engines were also invented roughly between 1832 and 1839. Robert Anderson of Scotland invented the first electric carriage that used rechargeable batteries to power a small electric motor. The vehicles had demerits and were heavy, slow and expensive. They needed to stop for recharging frequently. With the invention of gas-powered vehicles, both steam and electric road vehicles were abandoned. Electricity was of greater success in tramways and streetcars, where there was a possibility of a constant supply of electricity.

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History of electric vehicles

Electric land vehicles in America outsold all other types of cars around 1900. In the several following years, sales of electric vehicles took a drop as a new type of vehicle came to dominate the market.

The first self-powered road vehicles were powered by steam engines and Nicolas Joseph Cugnot built the first automobile in 1769 which was recognized by the British Royal Automobile Club and the Automobile Club de France.

A number of history books say that the automobile was invented by either Karl Benz or Gottlieb Daimler because both invented highly successful and practical gasoline-powered vehicles that ushered in the age of modern automobiles. They invented cars that worked and looked just like the cars of today. However it is unfair to say that either man invented the automobile.




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