The history of the automobile begins as early as 1769, with the creation of steam engine automobiles capable of human transport. In 1806, the first cars powered by an internal combustion engine running on fuel gas appeared, which led to the introduction in 1885 of the ubiquitous modern gasoline- or petrol-fueled internal combustion engine. Cars powered by electric power briefly appeared at the turn of the 20th century, but largely disappeared from use until the turn of the 21st century. The need to reduce the amount of air pollution generated by transportation has raised new interest in electric and hybrid vehicles. The early history of the automobile can be divided into a number of eras, based on the prevalent method of automotive propulsion during that time. Later periods were defined by trends in exterior styling, and size and utility preferences.
Pioneer inventors German engineer Karl Benz, the inventor of numerous car-related technologies, is generally regarded as the inventor of the modern automobile, and received a German patent in 1886. The American George B. Selden filed for a patent on May 8, 1879. His application included not only the engine but its use in a 4-wheeled car. Mr. Selden filed a series of amendments to his application which stretched out the legal process, resulting in a delay of 16 years before the US 549160 was granted on November 5, 1895.
The four-stroke petrol (gasoline) internal combustion engine that constitutes the most prevalent form of modern automotive propulsion is a creation of German inventor Nikolaus Otto. The similar four-stroke diesel engine was also invented by a German, Rudolf Diesel. The hydrogen fuel cell, one of the technologies hailed as a replacement for gasoline as an energy source for cars, was discovered in principle by yet another German, Christian Friedrich Schnbein, in 1838. The battery electric car owes its beginnings to Hungarian nyos Jedlik, one of the inventors o the electric motor, and Gaston Plant, who invented the lead-acid battery in 1859. Early automobiles Steam automobiles. Ferdinand Veriest, a member of a Jesuit mission in China, built the first steam-powered vehicle around 1672, designed as a toy for the Chinese Emperor, it being of small scale and unable to carry a driver or passenger but, quite possibly, the first working steam-powered vehicle ('auto-mobile').
Steam-powered self-propelled vehicles are thought to have been devised in the late-18th century. Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot demonstrated his far dier vapour, an experimental steam-driven artillery tractor, in 1770 and 1771. As Cugnot's design proved to be impractical, his invention was not developed in his native France. The centre of innovation shifted to Great Britain. By 1784, William Murdoch had built a working model of a steam carriage in Redruth, and in 1801 Richard Trevithick was running a full-sized vehicle on the road in Camborne. Such vehicles were in vogue for a time, and over the next decades such innovations as hand brakes, multi-speed transmissions, and better steering developed.
Some were commercially successful in providing mass transit, until a backlash against these large speedy vehicles resulted in the passage of the Locomotive Act (1865), which required self-propelled vehicles on public roads in the United Kingdom to be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag and blowing a horn. This effectively killed road auto development in the UK for most of the rest of the 19th century; inventors and engineers shifted their efforts to improvements in railway locomotives. The law was not repealed until 1896, although the need for the red flag was removed in 1878. In Russia in the 1780's, Ivan Kulibin started working on a human-pedal led carriage with a steam engine. He finished working on it in 1791.
Some of its features included a flywheel, brake, gearbox, and bearing, which are also the features of a modern automobile. His design had three roadwheels. The Czarist government failed to see the potential market, there was little private development, and the vehicle was not developed further. The first automobile patent in the United States was granted to Oliver Evans in 1789.
In 1805, Evans demonstrated his first successful self-propelled vehicle, which not only was the first automobile in the USA, but was also the first amphibious vehicle. His steam-powered vehicle was able to travel on roadwheels on land, and via a paddle wheel in the water. The first carriage sized automobile in the United States was a steam powered vehicle invented in 1871, by Dr. J.W. Car hart, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in Racine, Wisconsin. It induced the State of Wisconsin in 1875, to offer a $10,000 award to the first to produce a practical substitute for the use of horses and other animals.
They stipulated that the vehicle would have to maintain an average speed of more than five miles per hour over a 200 mile course. The offer led to the first city to city automobile race in the United States, starting on July 16, 1878, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and ending in Madison, via Appleton, Oshkosh, Waupun, Watertown, Fort Atkinson, and Janesville. While seven vehicles were registered, only two started to compete: the entries from Green Bay and Oshkosh. The vehicle from Green Bay was faster, but broke down before completing the race. The Oshkosh finished the 201 mile course in 33 hours and 27 minutes, and posted an average speed of six miles per hour. In 1879, the legislature awarded half the prize.
Among other efforts, in 1815, a professor at Prague Polytechnic h, Josef Boek, built an oil-fired steam car. Walter Hancock, builder and operator of London steam buses, in 1838 built a four-seat steam phaeton. Steam-car development continued, leading to significant advances by the early 1900's (see Edwardian Era car). Electric automobiles. In 1828, nyos Jedlik, a Hungarian who invented an early type of electric motor, created a tiny model car powered by his new motor. In 1834, Vermont blacksmith Thomas Davenport, the inventor of the first American DC electrical motor, installed his motor in a small model car, which he operated on a short circular electrified track.
In 1835, Professor Sibrandus Strati ngh of Groningen, the Netherlands and his assistant Christopher Becker created a small-scale electrical car, powered by non-rechargeable primary cells. In 1838, Scotsman Robert Davidson built an electric locomotive that attained a speed of 4 miles per hour (6 km / h ). In England, a patent was granted in 1840 for the use of rail tracks as conductors of electric current, and similar American patents were issued to Lilley and Colt en in 1847. Between 1832 and 1839 (the exact year is uncertain), Robert Anderson of Scotland invented the first crude electric carriage, powered by non-rechargeable primary cells. Veteran era. The first production of automobiles was by Karl Benz in 1888 in Germany and, under licence from Benz, in France by Emile Roger.
There were numerous others, including tricycle builders Rudolf Egg, Edward Butler, and Lon Bolle. Bolle, using a 650 cc (40 cu in) engine of his own design, enabled his driver, Jamin, to average 45 kilometres per hour (28.0 mph) in the 1897 Paris-Tour ville rally. By 1900, mass production of automobiles had begun in France and the United States. The first company formed exclusively to build automobiles was Panhard et Levassor in France, which also introduced the first four-cylinder engine. Formed in 1889, Panhard was quickly followed by Peugeot two years later. By the start of the 20th century, the automobile industry was beginning to take off in western Europe, especially in France, where 30,204 were produced in 1903, representing 48.8% of world automobile production that year.
In the United States, brothers Charles and Frank Duryea founded the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in 1893, becoming the first American automobile manufacturing company. However, it was Ransom E. Olds and his Olds Motor Vehicle Company (later known as Oldsmobile) who would dominate this era of automobile production. Its large scale production line was running in 1902. Within a year, Cadillac (formed from the Henry Ford Company), Winton, and Ford were producing cars in the thousands. Within a few years, a dizzying assortment of technologies were being produced by hundreds of producers all over the western world. Steam, electricity and petrol / gasoline -powered automobiles competed for decades, with petrol / gasoline internal combustion engines achieving dominance in the 1910's.
Dual- and even quad-engine cars were designed, and engine displacement ranged to more than a dozen litres. Many modern advances, including gas / electric hybrids, multi-valve engines, overhead camshafts, and four-wheel drive, were attempted, and discarded at this time. In 1898, Louis Renault had a De Dion-Bouton modified, with fixed drive shaft and ring and pinion gear, making "perhaps the first hot rod in history" and bringing Renault and his brothers into the car industry. Innovation was rapid and rampant, with no clear standards for basic vehicle architectures, body styles, construction materials, or controls. Many veteran cars use a tiller, rather than a wheel for steering, for example, and most operated at a single speed.
Chain drive was dominant over the drive shaft, and closed bodies were extremely rare. Drum brakes were introduced by Renault in 1902. The next year, Dutch designer Jacobus Spijker built the first four-wheel drive racing car; it never competed and it would be 1965 and the Jensen FF before four wheel drive was used on a production car. Innovation was not limited to the vehicles themselves, either. Increasing numbers of cars propelled the growth of the petroleum industry, as well as the development of technology to produce gasoline (replacing kerosene and coal oil) and of improvements in heat-tolerant mineral oil lubricants (replacing vegetable and animal oils). Pre- WWII era.
The pre-war part of the classic era began with the Great Depression in 1930, and ended with the recovery after World War II, commonly placed at 1948. It was in this period that integrated fenders and fully-closed bodies began to dominate sales, with the new saloon / sedan body style even incorporating a trunk or boot at the rear for storage. The old open-top runabouts, phaetons, and touring cars were phased out by the end of the classic era as wings, running boards, and headlights were gradually integrated with the body of the car. By the 1930's, most of the mechanical technology used in today's automobiles had been invented, although some things were later "re-invented", and credited to someone else. For example, front-wheel drive was re-introduced by Andr Citron with the launch of the Traction Avant in 1934, though it had appeared several years earlier in road cars made by Alvis and Cord, and in racing cars by Miller (and may have appeared as early as 1897).
In the same vein, independent suspension was originally conceived by A mde Bolle in 1873, but not put in production until appearing on the low-volume Mercedes-Benz 380 in 1933, which prodded American makers to use it more widely. [ In 1930, the number of auto manufacturers declined sharply as the industry consolidated and matured, thanks in part to the effects of the Great Depression. Post-war era. Automobile design finally emerged from the shadow of World War II in 1949, the year that in the United States saw the introduction of high-compression V 8 engines and modern bodies from General Motors' Oldsmobile and Cadillac brands. The unibody / strut -suspended 1951 Ford Consul joined the 1948 Morris Minor and 1949 Rover P 4 in waking up the automobile market in the United Kingdom. In Italy, Enzo Ferrari was beginning his 250 series, just as Lancia introduced the revolutionary V 6-powered Aurelia.
Modern era. The modern era is normally defined as the 25 years preceding the current year. However, there are some technical and design aspects that differentiate modern cars from antiques. Without considering the future of the car, the modern era has been one of increasing standardisation, platform sharing, and computer-aided design. Some particularly notable advances in modern times are the widespread of front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, the adoption of the diesel engine, and the ubiquity of fuel injection.
While all of these advances were first attempted in earlier eras, they so dominate the market today that it is easy to overlook their significance. Nearly all modern passenger cars are front-wheel drive monocoque / unibody designs, with transversely-mounted engines, but this design was considered radical as late as the 1960's. Body styles have changed as well in the modern era. Three types, the hatchback, sedan, and sport utility vehicle, dominate today's market,  yet are relatively recent concepts. All originally emphasised practicality, but have mutated into today's high-powered luxury crossover SUV and sports wagon. The rise of pickup trucks in the United States, and SUVs worldwide has changed the face of motoring, with these "trucks" coming to command more than half of the world automobile market.
The modern era has also seen rapidly rising fuel efficiency and engine output. Once the automobile emissions concerns of the 1970's were conquered with computerised engine management systems, power began to rise rapidly. In the 1980's, a powerful sports car might have produced 200 horsepower (150 kW) - just 20 years later, average passenger cars have engines that powerful, and some performance models offer three times as much power.