Cars today are very common but about 200 years ago they were thought to be just some kind of crazy invention. The origin of the automobile can be traced back to Europe, but it became a major form of transportation in the United States. Most European cars were hand made, and they were very expensive so not that many people could afford to buy the cars.
Nicolas Joseph Cugnot a French military engineer built the first steam car or a self propelled vehicle in 1769. One was designed to carry passengers, while the other was a three-wheeled steam tractor for hauling very heavy artillery.
In 1801 and 1803 another inventor Richard Trevithick of the United Kingdom demonstrated four-wheeled steam propelled vehicles to carry passengers. Unfortunately, he lacked the money to continue his work in the United States.
In 1805 an inventor named Oliver Evans demonstrated a steam operated dredge, which was mounted on a boat. He built the dredge to deepen and clean the Philadelphia waterfront. Evans put wheels on the boat and drove it. This machine weighed about 18 tons.
During the 1860's another American inventor Sylvester H. Roper developed a much smaller steam operated vehicle. This vehicle looked similar to present day vehicles. This attracted a lot of public attention and was even displayed in a circus.
Steam cars had many disadvantages. In the beginning, it took a very long time for the fire to heat the boiler. This was bad because you would have to wait around a long time and by the time it heated up you could have walked to the place you wanted to go. The inventors solved that problem, but many others remained. The steam engines had to be small to be practical for cars, so they had to be high pressured engines to produce the required power. However, such engines cost much to build and maintain.
Numerous attempts in the United Kingdom to promote the use and development of steam cars failed because of the competition from railroad and stagecoach companies. Early steam cars damaged roads and sometimes even blew up. They also made a terrible noise, dirtied the air, smoked, and frightened horses (which were the main mode of transportation at the time).
In 1865 the Red Flag Law ended further development of automobiles in the United Kingdom for about thirty years. Under this law the few steam cars could not go any faster than four miles an hour in the country, and two miles per hour in town. Also to warn of its approach, a signalman had to walk ahead of the vehicle, by swinging a red flag by day and red lantern by night. And the steam powered car gradually disappeared. In 1924, the Stanley brother's (the brothers who made the famous Stanley Steamer Company) company one of the last steam car manufacturers went bankrupt.
The electric car was first invented around 1891. William Morrison built the first successful American electric cars. They were powered by batteries from under. The seat they were quiet and easy to operate thus they quickly became popular.
But the batteries limited to how far they could go. Few electric cars could travel faster than twenty miles per hour and the batteries had to be recharged every 50 miles.
The gasoline car the automobile as we know it today resulted from the development of the internal combustion engine Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir a Belgian living in France, patented the first commercially successful internal combustion engine in 1860. It burned coke oven gas(a gas that was usually used to heat ovens) and was noisy and inefficient. He still sold several hundred engines, which powered printing presses, lathes, and water pumps. He also installed one in a crude motorcar.
In 1885 Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz, two Germans working separately developed the first successful 4 stroke gasoline engine. Their engines led to the development of the engines used in cars today. Many early European manufacturers turned out cars based on Daimler's and Benz's work and patents. In 1891 a French...
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