The History of Automobiles

  • The First Steam-powered Vehicle

    The First Steam-powered Vehicle
    Ferdinand Verbiest built the first steam-powered vehicle around 1672, designed as a toy for the Chinese Emperor, it was on a small scale and unable to carry a driver or passenger, but probably the first working 'auto-mobile'.
  • Cugnot

    Nicolas Cugnot, a French military engineer developed a steam powered road-vehicle for the French army to haul heavy cannons.
    Using a steam engine fixed to a three-wheeled cart, Cugnot successfully converted the back-and-forth action of a steam piston into rotary motion.
    The truck reputedly reached walking speed and carried four tons. The army later abandoned his invention.
  • Britian's first Steam Powered Cars

    Britian's first Steam Powered Cars
    Richard Trevithick improved the design of steam engines, by making smaller and lighter with stronger boilers generating more power. In 1801, he put one of his new compact steam engines on wheels.
    His ‘road locomotive’ - known as the Puffing Devil – was the first horseless carriage to transport passengers. Innovations like hand brakes, gears, and steering improvements were developed in subsequent decades.
  • Runs on Oil

    Runs on Oil
    in 1815, a professor at Prague Polytechnich, Josef Bozek, built an oil-fired steam car.
  • Uphill Struggle

    Uphill Struggle
    English engineer, Samuel Brown adapted an old Newcomen steam engine to burn a mixture of oxygen hydrogen gas.
    He used it to briefly power a vehicle up Shooter's Hill - the highest point in south London.
  • First Fuel Alternatives

    First Fuel Alternatives
    The hydrogen fuel cell, one of the technologies known as a replacement for gasoline as an energy source for cars, was discovered in principle by Christian Friedrich Schönbein in 1838. The battery electric car owes its beginnings to Ányos Jedlik, one of the inventors of the electric motor, and Gaston Planté, who invented the lead-acid battery in 1859.
  • two-stroke internal combustion engine

    two-stroke internal combustion engine
    Belgian-born engineer, Jean Joseph Étienne Lenoir invented and patented (1860) a two-stroke, internal combustion engine. It was fuelled by coal gas and triggered by an electric spark-ignition.
    Lenoir later attached an improved engine to a three-wheeled wagon and completed a fifty-mile road trip.
  • Four Stroke Internal Combustion Engine

    Four Stroke Internal Combustion Engine
    The four-stroke petrol (gasoline) internal combustion engine that constitutes the most prevalent form of modern automotive propulsion is a creation of Nikolaus Otto.
  • The Locomotive Act

    The Locomotive Act
    The Locomotive Act restricted the speed of horse-less vehicles to 4mph in open country and 2 mph in towns.
    The act effectively required three drivers for each vehicle; two to travel in the vehicle and one to walk ahead waving a red flag. For the next 30 years cars couldn’t legally travel above walking speed.
  • The First "Real Thing"

    The First "Real Thing"
    What some people define as the first "real" automobile was produced by Amédée Bollée in 1873, who built self-propelled steam road vehicles to transport groups of passengers.
  • Motor Age Moves Forward

    Motor Age Moves Forward
    The first vehicles driven using internal combustion engines were developed roughly at the same time by two engineers working in separate parts of Germany – Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz.
    They simultaneously formulated highly successful and practically powered vehicles that, by and large, worked like the cars we use today. The age of modern motor cars had begun.
  • The First Motor Companies

    The First Motor Companies
    Two former French wood machinists, Rene Panhard and Emile Levassor, set up the world’s first car manufacturers. Their first car was built in 1890 using a Daimler engine.
    Another French company, Peugeot was formed the following year, and still going strong today.
  • Grand Prix

    Grand Prix
    Motor racing began as cars were built. Races quickly evolved from a simple chases from town to town, to organised events like time trials endurance tests for car and driver.
    Innovations in engineering soon saw competition speeds exceeding 100 mph. Since races were often held on open roads, fatalities were frequent among drivers and spectators.
  • Key Development

    Key Development
    Working for Cadillac’s design and development department, Charles Kettering invented the electric ignition and starter motor. Cars could now start themselves.
    Kettering later introduced independent suspension, and four-wheel brakes. And By 1930, most of the technology used in automobiles today had already been invented.
  • Fuel Prices

    Fuel Prices
    After the Arab oil Embargo beginning in October 1973, oil prices rocketed causing a world shortage. Though it was lifted a year later, the effect was explosive – especially in America, where huge gas-guzzling cars were the norm. Fuel economy was suddenly something to consider when buying a car.
  • Better Brakes

    Better Brakes
    The first antilock braking systems (ABS) were developed for automobiles by German manufacurers, Bosch. They first appeared in trucks and cars made by Mercedes-Benz.
    ABS brakes to allow the driver to maintain steering control and to shorten braking distances.
  • Cars go Green

    Cars go Green
    Manufacturers have acknowledged that oil reserves will dry up in the future. They’re now developing engines that use more than one fuel source – hybrid engines.
    Honda and Toyota initially introduced their petrol/electric hybrids to the Japanese market, before releasing them in America and Europe in 2002.