An automobile is a wheeled passenger vehicle that carries its own motor. The word is mainly used in American English and Canadian English; in British English the term motor car is more commonly used. Different types of automobiles include cars, buses, trucks, and vans. Some include motorcycles in the category, but cars are the most typical automobiles. The term "automobile" is derived from Greek "auto" (self) and Latin "movére" (move), referring to the fact that it "moves by itself." Earlier terms for automobile include motorwagen, and horseless carriage. Although the term "car" is presumed to be derived through the shortening of the term "carriage", the word has its origin before 1300 A.D. in English as, "carr"—derived from similar words in French and much earlier Greek words—for a vehicle that moves, especially on wheels, that was applied to chariots, small carts, and later—to carriages that carried more people and larger loads. As of 2005, there were 600 million cars worldwide (93 cars per 1,000 persons).
The automobile was hailed as an environmental improvement over horses when it was first introduced in the 1880s. Before its introduction, in New York City alone, more than 1,800 tons of manure had to be removed from the streets daily, although the manure was used as natural fertilizer for crops and to build top soil. In 2006, the automobile is recognized as a primary source of world-wide air pollution and a cause of substantial noise pollution and adverse health effects.
- Main article: History of the automobile
The automobile powered by the Otto gasoline engine was invented in Germany by Karl Benz in 1885. Benz was granted a patent dated January 29, 1886 in Mannheim for that automobile. Even though Benz is credited with the invention of the modern automobile, several other German engineers worked on building automobiles at the same time. In 1886, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Stuttgart patented the first motor bike, and in 1889 they built a converted horse-drawn stagecoach. In 1870, German-Austrian inventor Siegfried Marcus assembled a motorized handcart, though Marcus's vehicle didn't go beyond the experimental stage.
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Internal combustion engine powered vehicles
In 1806 François Isaac de Rivaz, a Swiss, designed the first internal combustion engine (sometimes abbreviated "ICE" today). He subsequently used it to develop the world's first vehicle to run on such an engine that used a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen to generate energy. The design was not very successful, as was the case with the British inventor, Samuel Brown, and the American inventor, Samuel Morey, who produced vehicles powered by clumsy internal he combustion engines about 1826.
Etienne Lenoir produced the first successful stationary internal combustion engine in 1860, and within a few years, about four hundred were in operation in Paris. About 1863, Lenoir installed his engine in a vehicle. It seems to have been powered by city lighting-gas in bottles, and was said by Lenoir to have "travelled more slowly than a man could walk, with breakdowns being frequent." Lenoir, in his patent of 1860, included the provision of a carburettor, so liquid fuel could be substituted for gas, particularly for mobile purposes in vehicles. Lenoir is said to have tested liquid fuel, such as alcohol, in his stationary engines; but it doesn't appear that he used them in his own vehicle. If he did, he most certainly didn't use gasoline, as this was not well-known and was considered a waste product.
The next innovation occurred in the late 1860s, with Siegfried Marcus, a German working in Vienna, Austria. He developed the idea of using gasoline as a fuel in a two-stroke internal combustion engine. In 1870, using a simple handcart, he built a crude vehicle with no seats, steering, or brakes, but it was remarkable for one reason: it was the world's first internal-combustion-engine-powered vehicle fueled by gasoline. It was tested in Vienna in September 1870 and put aside. In 1888 or 1889, he built a second automobile, this one with seats, brakes, and steering, and included a four-stroke engine of his own design. That design may have been tested in 1890. Although he held patents for many inventions, he never applied for patents for either design in this category.
The four-stroke engine already had been documented and a patent was applied for in 1862 by the Frenchman Beau de Rochas in a long-winded and rambling pamphlet. He printed about three hundred copies of his pamphlet and they were distributed in Paris, but nothing came of this, with the patent application expiring soon afterward—and the pamphlet disappearing into total obscurity. In fact, its existence mostly was unknown and Beau de Rochas never built a single engine.
Most historians agree that Nikolaus Otto of Germany built the world's first four-stroke engine although his patent was voided. He knew nothing of Beau de Rochas's patent or idea, and came upon the idea entirely on his own. In fact, he began thinking about the concept in 1861, but abandoned the concept until the mid-1870s.
There is some evidence, although not conclusive, that Christian Reithmann, an Austrian living in Germany, had built a four-stroke engine entirely on his own by 1873. Reithmann had been experimenting with internal combustion engines as early as 1852.
In 1883, Edouard Delamare-Deboutteville and Leon Malandin of France installed an internal combustion engine powered by a tank of city gas on a tricycle. As they tested the vehicle, the tank hose came loose, resulting in an explosion. In 1884, Delamare-Deboutteville and Malandin built and patented a second vehicle. This one consisted of two four-stroke, liquid-fueled engines mounted on an old four-wheeled horse cart. The patent, and presumably the vehicle, contained many innovations, some of which wouldn't be used for decades. However, during the vehicle's first test, the frame broke apart, the vehicle literally "shaking itself to pieces," in Malandin's own words. No more vehicles were built by the two men. Their venture went completely unnoticed and their patent unexploited. Knowledge of the vehicles and their experiments was obscured until years later.
Supposedly in the late 1870s, an Italian named Murnigotti patented the idea of installing an internal combustion engine on a vehicle, although there is no evidence that one was built. In 1884, Enrico Bernardi, another Italian, installed an internal combustion engine on his son's tricycle. Although merely a toy, it is said to have operated somewhat successfully in one source, but another says the engine's power was too feeble to make the vehicle move.
Production of automobiles begins
If all of the above experiments hadn't taken place, however, the development of the automobile wouldn't have been retarded by so much as a moment, since they were unknown experiments that never advanced beyond the testing stage. The internal-combustion-engine automobile really can be said to have begun in Germany with Karl Benz in 1885, and Gottlieb Daimler in 1889, for their vehicles were successful, they went into series-production, and they inspired others.
Karl Benz began to work on new engine patents in 1878. First, he concentrated all his efforts on creating a reliable two-stroke gas engine, based on Nikolaus Otto's design of the four-stroke engine. A patent on the design by Otto had been declared void. Karl Benz finished his engine on New Year's Eve and was granted a patent for it in 1879. Karl Benz built his first three-wheeled automobile in 1885 and it was granted a patent in Mannheim, dated January 1886. This was—the first automobile designed and built as such—rather than a converted carriage, boat, or cart. Among other items Karl Benz invented for the automobile are the carburetor, the speed regulation system known also as an accelerator, ignition using sparks from a battery, the spark plug, the clutch, the gear shift, and the water radiator. He built improved versions in 1886 and 1887 and—went into production in 1888—the world's first automobile put into production. His wife, Bertha, made significant suggestions for innovation (see below) that he included in that model. Approximately twenty-five were built before 1893, when his first four-wheeler was introduced. They were powered with four-stroke engines of his own design. Emile Roger of France, already producing Benz engines under license, now added the Benz automobile to his line of products. Because France was more open to the early automobiles, in general, more were built and sold in France through Roger, than Benz sold initially from his own factory in Germany.
Gottlieb Daimler, in 1886, fitted a horse carriage with his four-stroke engine in Stuttgart. In 1889, he built two vehicles from scratch as automobiles, with several innovations. From 1890 to 1895 about thirty vehicles were built by Daimler and his innovative assistant, Wilhelm Maybach, either at the Daimler works or in the Hotel Hermann, where they set up shop after having a falling out with their backers. These two Germans, Benz and Daimler, seem to have been unaware of the early work of each other and worked independently. Daimler died in 1900. During the First World War, Benz suggested a co-operative effort between the companies the two founded, but it was not until 1926 that the companies united under the name of Daimler-Benz with a commitment to remain together under that name until the year 2000.
In 1890, Emile Levassor and Armand Peugeot of France began series-producing vehicles with Daimler engines, and so laid the foundation of the motor industry in France. They were inspired by Daimler's Stahlradwagen of 1889, which was exhibited in Paris in 1889.
The first American automobile with gasoline-powered internal combustion engines supposedly was designed in 1877 by George Baldwin Selden of Rochester, New York, who applied for a patent on an automobile in 1879. Selden didn't build a single automobile until 1905, when he was forced to do so, due to a lawsuit threatening the legality of his patent because the subject had never been built. Construction is required to demonstrate the feasibility of the design and validate the patent, otherwise the patent may be voided. After building the 1877 design in 1905, Selden received his patent and later sued the Ford Motor Company for infringing upon his patent. Henry Ford was notorious for opposing the American patent system and Selden's case against Ford went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Ford, and anyone else, was free to build automobiles without paying royalties to Selden, since automobile technology had improved so significantly since the design of Selden's patent, that no one was building according to his early designs.
Meanwhile, notable advances in steam power evolved in Birmingham, England by the Lunar Society. It was here that the term horsepower was first used. It also was in Birmingham that the first British four-wheel petrol-driven automobiles were built in 1895 by Frederick William Lanchester. Lanchester also patented the disc brake in that city. Electric vehicles were produced by a small number of manufacturers.
The first automobile patent in the United States was granted to Oliver Evans in 1789 for his "Amphibious Digger". It was a harbor dredge scow designed to be powered by a steam engine and he built wheels to attach to the bow. In 1804 Evans demonstrated his first successful self-propelled vehicle, which not only was the first automobile in the US but was also the first amphibious vehicle, as his steam-powered vehicle was able to travel on wheels on land as he demonstrated once, and via a paddle wheel in the water. It was not successful and eventually was sold as spare parts.
The Benz Motorwagen, built in 1885, was patented on January 29, 1886 by Karl Benz as the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. In 1888, a major breakthrough came with the historic drive of Bertha Benz. She drove an automobile that her husband had built for a distance of more than 106 km (i.e. - approximately 65 miles). This event demonstrated the practical usefulness of the automobile and gained wide publicity, which was the promotion she thought was needed to advance the invention. The Benz vehicle was the first automobile put into production and sold commercially. Bertha Benz's historic drive is celebrated as an annual holiday in Germany with rallies of antique automobiles.
On 5 November 1895, George B. Selden was granted a United States patent for a two-stroke automobile engine U.S. Patent 549160. This patent did more to hinder than encourage development of autos in the USA. Steam, electric, and gasoline powered autos competed for decades, with gasoline internal combustion engines achieving dominance in the 1910s.
The large-scale, production-line manufacturing of affordable automobiles was debuted by Ransom Eli Olds at his Oldsmobile factory in 1902. This assembly line concept was then greatly expanded by Henry Ford in the 1910s. Development of automotive technology was rapid, due in part to the hundreds of small manufacturers competing to gain the world's attention. Key developments included electric ignition and the electric self-starter (both by Charles Kettering, for the Cadillac Motor Company in 1910-1911), independent suspension, and four-wheel brakes.
Model changeover and design change
Cars are not merely continually perfected mechanical contrivances; since the 1920s nearly all have been mass-produced to meet a market, so marketing plans and manufacture to meet them have often dominated automobile design. It was Alfred P. Sloan who established the idea of different makes of cars produced by one firm, so that buyers could "move up" as their fortunes improved. The makes shared parts with one another so that the larger production volume resulted in lower costs for each price range. For example, in the 1950s, Chevrolet shared hood, doors, roof, and windows with Pontiac; the LaSalle of the 1930s, sold by Cadillac, used the cheaper mechanical parts made by the Oldsmobile division.
Alternative fuels and batteries
- Main article: Alternative fuel cars
With heavy taxes on fuel, particularly in Europe and tightening environmental laws, particularly in California, and the possibility of further restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, work on alternative power systems for vehicles continues.
Diesel-powered cars can run with little or no modification on 100% pure biodiesel, a fuel that can be made from vegetable oils but require modifications if you drive in cold weather countries. The main plus of Diesel combustion engines is its 50% fuel burn advantage over 23% in the best gasoline engines. This makes Diesel engines capable of achieving an average of 17 km per liter fuel efficiency. Many cars that currently use gasoline can run on ethanol, a fuel made from plant sugars. Most cars that are designed to run on gasoline are capable of running with up to 15% ethanol mixed in. With a small amount of redesign, gasoline-powered vehicles can run on ethanol concentrations as high as 85%. All petrol fuelled cars can run on LPG. There has been some concern that the ethanol-gasoline mixtures prematurely wear down seals and gaskets. Theoretically, the lower energy content of alcohol should lead to considerably reduced efficiency and range when compared with gasoline. However, EPA testing has actually shown only a 20-30% reduction in range. Therefore, if your vehicle is capable of doing 750 kilometers on a 50 liter tank (15 kilometers per liter), its range would be reduced to approximately 600 kilometers (12 kilometers per liter). Of course, certain measures are available to increase this efficiency, such as different camshaft configurations, altering the timing/spark output of the ignition, increasing compression, or simply using a larger fuel tank.
In the United States, alcohol fuel was produced in corn-alcohol stills until Prohibition criminalized the production of alcohol in 1919. Interest in alcohol as an automotive fuel lapsed until the oil price shocks of the 1970s. Reacting to the high price of oil and its growing dependence on imports, in 1975 Brazil launched a huge government-subsidized effort to manufacture ethanol fuel (from its sugar cane crop) and ethanol-powered automobiles. These ethanol-only vehicles were very popular in the 1980s, but became economically impractical when oil prices fell - and sugar prices rose - late in that decade. In recent years Brazil has encouraged the development of flex-fuel automobiles, where the owner can use any mixture of ethanol and gasoline based on their individual cost and performance goals. In 2005, 70% of the cars sold in Brazil were flex-fuel.
Attempts at building viable, modern battery-powered electric vehicle began in the 1950s with the introduction of the first modern (transistor based) electric car - the Henney Kilowatt. Despite the poor sales of the early battery-powered vehicles, development of various battery-powered vehicles continued through the 1990s (notably General Motors with the EV1), but cost, speed and inadequate driving range continued to make them impractical. Battery powered cars have primarily used lead-acid batteries and NiMH batteries. Lead-acid batteries' recharge capacity is considerably reduced if they're discharged beyond 75% on a regular basis, making them a less-than-ideal solution. NiMH batteries are a better choice, but are considerably more expensive than lead-acid. Lithium-ion battery powered vehicles such as the Venturi Fetish have recently demonstrated excellent performance and range, but they remain very expensive.Current research and development is centered on "hybrid" vehicles that use both electric power and internal combustion. The first hybrid vehicle available for sale in the USA was the Honda Insight. As of 2006, the car is still in production and achieves around 25.5 km per liter.
Automobile accidents are almost as old as automobiles themselves. Joseph Cugnot crashed his steam-powered "Fardier" against a wall in 1771. One of the earliest recorded automobile fatalities was Mary Ward, on 1869-08-31 in Parsonstown, Ireland, an early victim in the United States was Henry Bliss on 1899-09-13 in New York City, NY.
Cars have two basic safety problems: They have human drivers who make mistakes, and the wheels lose traction near a half gravity of deceleration. Automated control has been seriously proposed and successfully prototyped. Shoulder-belted passengers could tolerate a 32G emergency stop (reducing the safe intervehicle gap 64-fold) if high-speed roads incorporated a steel rail for emergency braking. Both safety modifications of the roadway are thought to be too expensive by most funding authorities, although these modifications could dramatically increase the number of vehicles that could safely use a high-speed highway.
Early safety research focused on increasing the reliability of brakes and reducing the flammability of fuel systems. For example, modern engine compartments are open at the bottom so that fuel vapors, which are heavier than air, vent to the open air. Brakes are hydraulic so that failures are slow leaks, rather than abrupt cable breaks. Systematic research on crash safety started in 1958 at Ford Motor Company. Since then, most research has focused on absorbing external crash energy with crushable panels and reducing the motion of human bodies in the passenger compartment.
Despite technological advances, there is still significant loss of life from car accidents: About 40,000 people die every year in the U.S., with similar figures in Europe. This figure increases annually in step with rising population and increasing travel if no measures are taken, but the rate per capita and per mile travelled decreases steadily. The death toll is expected to nearly double worldwide by 2020. A much higher number of accidents result in injury or permanent disability. The highest accident figures are reported in China and India. The European Union has a rigid program to cut the death toll in the EU in half by 2010 and member states have started implementing measures.
In 2005 63 million cars and light trucks were produced worldwide. The world's biggest car producer (including light trucks) is the European Union with 29% of the world's production. In non-EU Eastern Europe another 4% are produced. The second largest manufacturer is NAFTA with 25.8%, followed by Japan with 16.7%, China with 8.1%, MERCOSUR with 3.9%, India with 2.4% and the rest of the world with 10.1%.
Large free trade areas like EU, NAFTA and MERCOSUR attract manufacturers worldwide to produce their products within them and without currency risks or customs, additionally to being close to customers. Thus the production figures do not show the technological ability or business skill of the areas. In fact much if not most of the Third World car production is used western technology and car models (and sometimes even complete obsolete western factories shipped to the country), which is reflected in the patent statistic as well as the locations of the r&d centers.
The automobile industry is dominated by relatively few large corporations (not to be confused with the much more numerous brands), the biggest of which (by numbers of produced cars) are currently General Motors, Toyota and Ford Motor Company. It is expected, that Toyota will reach the No.1 position in 2006. The most profitable per-unit car-maker of recent years has been Porsche due to its premium price tag.
The automotive industry at large still suffers from high under-utilization of its manufacturing potential.
A typical family car costs about 25€ in raw materials in production. Higher line cars tend to cost 100€ up.
Compared to other popular modes of passenger transportation, especially buses, the automobile is relatively uneconomic. There are a number of reasons for this:
- The typical private car spends most of its lifetime idling and depreciation is a significant proportion of the total cost.
- Compared to bulk-carrying vehicles such as airplanes, buses and trains, individual vehicles have worse economies of scale.
- Capacity utilisation is low. The average occupancy of automobiles is below 1.5 passengers in most parts of the world. Measures such as HOV lanes try to address this issue.
- According to the RAC the average cost of running a new car in the UK is GBP 5,000 (US$ 9,000) per year, or roughly 1/3 of the average net wage, a situation reflected in most other Western nations. Nevertheless demand for automobiles remains high and inelasic, suggesting that its advantages, such as on-demand and door-to-door travel, are highly prized and not easily susbtituted by cheaper alternative modes of transport.
The costs of running a car can be broken down as follows (in approximate order of cost):
- Fuel (including fuel tax)
- Tire replacement
- Vehicle tax
- Roadworthiness Tests
- Opportunity cost
Despite rising oil prices the real cost of car travel has dropped steadily over the past 5 decades, in part due to better manufacturing technologies, and in part due to engines becoming more fuel-efficient.
As opposed to public transport, the automobile is characterised by high fixed costs and low variable costs, making it most attractive for frequent travellers such as commuters, and least attractive for infrequent and/or flexible travellers, such as people who use their car for weekend trips only. This is the main reason why public transport companies try to increase competitiveness in the commuter market by raising fixed costs/ reducing variable costs to the consumer in the form of season tickets. Carsharing significantly lowers fixed costs, hence it tends to be more popular with light users than commuters.
Since automobiles demand a high land use, they become increasingly uneconomic with higher population densities. This can either manifest itself in higher costs of driving in densely populated areas (Parking fees and road pricing), or in the absence of a price mechanism, in an shortage in the form of traffic jams. Public transport, by comparison, becomes increasingly uneconomic with lower population densities. Hence cars tend to dominate in rural and suburban environments, while only fulfilling a secondary role in city center transport.
Future of the car
- Main article: Future of the car
In order to limit deaths, there has been a push for self-driving automobiles. There have been many notable efforts funded by the NHTSA, including the many efforts by the NavLabgroup at Carnegie Mellon University. Recent efforts include the highly publicized DARPA Grand Challenge race.A current invention is ESP by Bosch that is claimed to reduce deaths by about 30% and is recommended by many lawmakers and carmakers to be a standard feature in all cars sold in the EU. ESP recognizes dangerous situations and corrects the drivers input for a short moment to stabilize the car.
Relatively high transportation fuel prices do not completely stop car usage but makes it significantly more expensive. One environmental benefit of high fuel prices is that it incentivises the production of more efficient (and hence less polluting) car engines and designs and the development of alternative fuels. In the beginning of 2006, 1 liter of gas costs approximately $1.60 in Germany and other European countries, and one US gallon of gas costs nearly $3.00. With fuel prices at these levels there is a strong incentive for consumers to purchase lighter, smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Nevertheless, individual mobility is highly prized in modern societies so the demand for automobiles is inelastic. Alternative individual modes of transport, such as Personal rapid transit, could make the automobile obsolete if they prove to be cheaper and more energy efficient.
Hydrogen cars, driven either by a combination of fuel cells and an electric motor, or alternatively, a conventional combustion engine, are widely mooted to replace fossil fuel powered cars in a few decades. Some obstacles to a mass market of hydrogen cars include: the cost of hydrogen production by electrolysis, which is inefficient and requires an inexpensive source of electrical energy to be economical, the difficulty of storing hydrogen either in its gaseous or liquid (cryogenic) form, and the lack of a hydrogen transport infrastructure such as pipelines and filling stations. Hydrogen has a much higher energy density than gasoline or diesel. It is thought to become cheaper with mass production, but because its production is overall energy inefficient and requires other sources of energy, including fossil, it is unlikely to be a cheaper fuel than gasoline or diesel here today. Also, its combustion produces only water vapour (a greenhouse gas) and virtually no local pollutants such as NOx, SOx, benzene and soot. BMW's engineering team promises a high horsepower hydrogen fuel engine in its 7 Series sedan before the next generation of the car makes its debut.The electric car in general appears to be a way forward in principle; electric motors are far more efficient than internal combustion engines and have a much greater power to weight ratio. They also operate efficiently across the full speed range of the vehicle and develop a lot of torque at zero speed, so are ideal for cars. A complex drivetrain and transmission would not be needed. However, despite this the electric car is held back by battery technology - so far a cell with comparable energy density to a tank of liquid fuel is a long way off, and there is no infrastructure in place to support it. A more practical approach may be to use a smaller internal combustion (IC) engine to drive a generator- this approach can be much more efficient since the IC engine can be run at a single speed, use cheaper fuel such as diesel, and drop the heavy, power wasting drivetrain. Such an approach has worked very well for railway locomotives, but so far has not been scaled down for car use.
Recently the automobile industry has determined that the biggest potential growth market (in terms of both revenue and profit), is software. Cars are now equipped with a stunning array of software; from voice recognition and vehicle navigation systems, vehicle tracking system like ESITrack to in-vehicle distributed entertainment systems (DVD/Games), to telematics systems such as BMWs BMW Assist or GMs Onstar not to mention the control subsystems. Software now accounts for 35% of a cars value, and this percentage is only going to get larger. The theory behind this is that the mechanical systems of automobiles are now essentially a commodity, and the real product differentiation occurs in the software systems. Many cars are equipped with full blown 32bit real-time memory protected operating systems such as QNX.
A new invention by Carmelo Scuderi has the potential to permanently change the combustion engine. The engine is still in the process of patenting, raising capital, and developing a prototype. The invention is claimed to improve the efficiency of an engine from 33% to 40%, a substantial improvement. In addition, toxic emissions are claimed to be reduced by as much as 80%. The new invention calls for dividing the four strokes of a normal engine over a combination of one compression cycle and one power cycle. The inventor claims that the invention will also create more power and will cost manufacturers less to produce. However, given that there is not even a working prototype of this design it is still only speculative at this time (May 2006).
Hypothetical driverless cars and flying cars have been proposed for decades, but for now the costs would outweigh the benefits (traffic overhaul and control, fuel and operating costs, the development of widely available driverless and flying cars itself, and the technology required for such vehicles which is currently out of reach). Thus driverless and especially flying cars still are an idea widely associated with science fiction.
See part of vehicles
- Ancillary power — mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, vacuum, air
- transmission (gearbox)
- Drive Wheels
- Live axle
- Wheels and tires
- Vehicle interior equipment
- exterior equipment
- Automobile design
- Car safety
- Effects of the automobile on societies
- Hybrid Cars
- List of automobile manufacturers
- List of automotive superlatives
- North American Eagle
- Roadway air dispersion modeling
- Roadway noise
- Thrust SSC
- Passenger vehicles in the United States