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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The history of automobiles

The modern automobile powered by the Otto gasoline engine was invented in Germany by Karl Benz. Even though Karl Benz is credited with the invention of the modern automobile, several other German engineers worked on building the first automobile at the same time. These inventors are: Karl Benz on July 3, 1886 in Mannheim, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach in Stuttgart (also inventors of the first motor bike) and in 1888/89 German-Austrian inventor Siegfried Marcus in Vienna, although Marcus didn't go beyond the prototype stage.

Steam powered vehicles

Steam-powered self-propelled cars were devised in the late 18th century. The first self-propelled car was built by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1769, it could attain speeds of up to 6 km/h (3.7 mi/h). In 1771 he designed another steam-driven car, which ran so fast that it rammed into a wall, producing the world’s first car accident.

The Internal Combustion Engine

In 1806 Fransois 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, one that used a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen to generate energy. It was not very successful, as was the case with the British inventor, Brown, and the American inventor, Morey, who produced clumsy IC-engine-powered vehicles about 1826.

Etienne Lenoir produced the first successful internal-combustion engine in 1860, and within a few years, about 400 were in operation in Paris. In 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 slower 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, i.e., vehicles. Lenoir is said to have tested liquid fuel, such as alcohol, in his stationary engines; but it doesn't appear he used them in his 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 comes 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, he built a crude vehicle, with no seats, steering or brakes, but it was spectacular for one reason: it was the world's first internal-combustion-engine-powered vehicle fueled by gasoline. It was tested in Vienna in September of 1870. In 1888/1889, he built a second car, this one with seats, brakes and steering, and a four-stroke engine of his own design.

The four-stroke engine had already been written down and patented in 1862 by the Frenchman Beau de Rochas in a long-winded and rambling pamphlet. He printed about 300 copies of his pamphlet and they were distributed in Paris, but nothing came of this, with the patent expiring soon after and the pamphlet disappearing into total obscurity. In fact, hardly anyone knew of it to begin with. Beau de Rochas never built a single engine.

Most historians agree that Nikolaus Otto of Germany built the world's first four-stroke engine. 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 it in 1861, but abandoned the idea until the mid-1870's. There is some evidence, although not conclusive, that one Christian Reithmann, an Austrian living in Germany, had built a four-stroke engine entirely on his own by 1873. Reithmann had been experimenting with IC-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 to 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, and their venture went completely unnoticed and their patent unexploited. No one else knew of the vehicles and experiments until years later.

Supposedly in the late 1870's, an Italian named Murnigotti patented the idea of installing an IC engine on a vehicle, although there is no evidence one was built. In 1884, Enrico Bernardi, another Italian, installed an IC engine on his son's tricycle. Although nothing more than 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.

But if all of the above experiments hadn't taken place, the development of the automobile wouldn't have been retarded by so much as a moment, since they were unknown experiments that went no further than the testing stage. The internal-combustion-engined car really can be said to have begun with Benz and Daimler in 1886, for their vehicles were successful, they went into series-production, and they inspired others.

Benz, after building his first three-wheeled car in 1885, built improved versions in 1886 and 1887, and went into production in 1888 -- the world's first vehicle to do so. Approximately 25 were built until 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 car to his line of products. Because France was more open to the automobile in general, more were built and sold in France than by Benz himself in Germany.

Daimler built a car in 1886 - a new horse carriage fitted with his new high-speed 4-stroke engine. In 1889, he built two vehicles from scratch, with several innovations. From about 1890-1895 about 30 vehicles were built by Daimler and his innovative assistant, Maybach, either at the Daimler works or in the Hotel Hermann, where they set up shop after having a falling out with their backers.

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 Stalhradwagen of 1889, which was exhibited in Paris in 1889.

The first American automobile with gasoline-powered internal combustion engines was supposedly designed in 1877 by George Baldwin Selden of Rochester, New York, who applied for a patent on the automobile in 1879. Selden didn't build a single car until 1905, when he was forced to do so due to the lawsuit. Selden received his patent and later sued the Ford Motor Company for infringing his patent. Henry Ford was notoriously against the American patent system, and Selden's case against Ford went all the way to the Supreme Court, who ruled that Ford and everyone else was free to build automobiles without paying royalties to Selden, since automobile technology had improved since Selden's patent, and no one was building those antiquated 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 was in Birmingham also that the first British four wheel petrol-driven automobiles were built in 1895 by Frederick William Lanchester who also patented the disc brake in the city. Electric vehicles were produced by a small number of manufacturers.

Source : Wikipedia