Cars are an inevitable part of today’s world, with umpteen models adorning every nook and corner of the world. The birth of the car and its periodic evolution through the ages is indeed an interesting subject to many and is worth a thorough study. It is thought that the modern cars that we see on the roads today are the result of over 100,000 patents!
It is said that the first real motor car came into existence only in 1885. Till then, steam powered vehicles were in use. Although it was thought that steam powered cars came to be invented as early as 1672 by Ferdinand Verbiest, little information is available today of his creation. The main credit for the same goes to a French engineer and mechanic, Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot, whose steam driven military tractor which was built at the Paris Arsenal, was used by the French army to haul up arms and ammunitions.
Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot’s Vehicle – First Car In The World
Cugnot’s vehicle consisted of a basic wooden chassis, with a boiler and steam engine mounted at the front. The seat, the steering tiller and the brake pedal was positioned behind, and the whole vehicle ran on three wheels, which often resulted in loss of balance. It also needed to stop every 15 minutes or so to allow steam to build up again. The energy obtained out of burning fuel was used to heat water that produced the steam. This resulted in the expansion of pistons, which turned the crankshaft that turned the wheels of the vehicle. However Cugnot’s invention had a very short life due to problems like instability as well as failure to meet the Army’s stipulated performance level.
Worlds First Motor Vehicle Accident
Incidentally, Cugnot designed another model of the steam powered car in 1771, which he accidentally rammed into a stone wall due to over speeding, resulting in the worlds first motor vehicle accident, after which he had to unceremoniously shelve his experiments.
First Internal Combustion Engine
It was in 1807 that a Swiss inventor, Francois Issac de Rivaz came out with the first internal combustion engine. A mixture of oxygen and hydrogen was used to generate the energy required to power this engine, and de Rivaz made use of this engine to develop a motor car too which resulted in a vehicle measuring one ton in weight and six meters in length! The impracticability of this model made it highly unsuccessful. Later on, several other inventors like Samuel Brown, Samuel Morey, and Etienne Lenoir also tried their hand unsuccessfully in creating internal combustion engines capable of powering vehicles.
But it is indisputably agreed by historians that Nicolas Cugnot was indeed the inventor of the world’s first automobile. That being the fact, it is also undeniable that the world’s early steam powered vehicles were indeed automobiles.