The automobile as we know it was not
made-up in a single day by a single inventor. The history of the automobile
reflects a development that took place worldwide. It is estimated that
over 100,000 patents created the contemporary automobile. However, we
could point to the many firsts that occurred along the way. It was starting
with the first theoretical plans for a motor vehicle that had been drawn
up by both Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton.
In 1769, the very first self-propelled road motor
vehicle was a military tractor invented by French engineer and mechanic,
Nicolas Joseph Cugnot (1725 - 1804). Cugnot used
a steam engine to power his vehicle, build under his instructions
at the Paris Arsenal by mechanic Brezin. It was used by the French
Army to haul weaponry at a whopping speed of 2 1/2 mph on only three
wheels. The vehicle had to stop each ten to fifteen minutes to build
up steam power. The steam engine and boiler was
dividing from the rest of the vehicle and located in the front (see
engraving above). The following year (1770), Cugnot built a steam-powered
tricycle that approved four passengers.
Steam engines powered cars by on fire fuel that
heated water in a boiler, creating vapor that expanded and pushed
pistons that twisted the crankshaft, which then
turned the wheels. During the early history of self-propelled vehicles
- both road and railroad vehicles were being urbanized with steam
engines. (Cugnot also designed two steam locomotives with engines
that never worked well.) Steam engines added so much weight to a
vehicle that they proved a poor design for road vehicle; however,
steam engines were very successfully used in locomotives. Historians,
who recognize that early steam-powered road vehicles were automobiles,
feel that Nicolas Cugnot was the discoverer of the first automobile.
Early Electric Cars
Steam engines were not the only engines used in early automobiles.
Vehicles with electrical engines were also imaginary.
Between 1833 and 1839 (the exact year is uncertain), Robert Anderson
of Scotland invented the first electric carriage. Electric cars
used rechargeable batteries that motorized a small electric motor.
The vehicles were heavy, slow, luxurious, and needed to stop for
recharging frequently. Both steam and electric road vehicles were
deserted in favor of gas-powered vehicles. Electricity found greater
success in tramways and streetcars,
where a constant supply of electricity was possible.
Auto Mobile History Eras
|Late 17th century
|| Steam |
|1890s - 1900s
|1900s - 1910s
||Brass or Edwardian
|1910s - 1920s
|1920s - 1940s
|1950s - 1970s
|1980s - 2000s