15 December 2014

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History of Automobiles: 1828-1910

At the same time steam powered vehicles were being developed, other inventors were hard at work developing a horseless carriage run by means of electricity. A Hungarian by the name of Anyos Jedlik built a small model car powered by an electric motor as early as 1828. Similar efforts were produced in the United States in 1834, and the Netherlands in 1835. Scottish inventors made the first full sized electric carriage soon afterward. This led to the rise of electricity-based transport in the US and Europe, at a time when Steam locomotion was also becoming fashionable as a new alternative to old fashioned literal horse power.

Meanwhile, another avenue of research was pursued in the direction of internal combustion engines propelled by various gases. Samuel Brown of England built a vehicle driven by internal combustion engine running off hydrogen, which in 1826 was successfully propelled up a hill in London. The immense cost of the operation proved too prohibitive for immediate extended use, but it was a significant landmark portending things to come.

In 1860 in France, a similar vehicle travelled 9 kilometers from Paris to a nearby village in three hours. In 1870, an Austrian, Siegfried Marcus demonstrated the use of gasoline to propel a small vehicle in Vienna Austria. By 1888 he had built a car capable of carrying four passengers.

The 1870 model makes him technically the inventor of the modern gas-powered car, however this accomplishment was stricken from German accounts by the Nazis during World War Two on account of Marcus’ Jewish heritage. Instead, the credit was given to other German scientists who were attempting to do the same around the same time and were successful slightly later, in particular Karl Benz in 1885, and Gottlieb Daimler in 1889.

Another claim belongs to Enrico Bernardi of Italy, who had created a gasoline run tricycle in 1882. Benz began producing automobiles for commercial sales in both Germany and France the year 1888, thus inaugurating a new era in the history of human transport. Many others began experimenting with making both three and four wheeled vehicles running off gasoline around this time in the US and Europe. The French company Panhard began producing motor vehicles in 1889, followed by Peugeot in 1891, and in America, Duryea Motor Wagons in 1893. Britain meanwhile produced its very first four wheeled gasoline driven vehicle in 1895.

Both the US and France were ready for mass production by 1900, the year Henry Ford founded the Detroit Automobile Company. The Olds Motor Vehicles Company, begun in 1902, early on took the lead in car manufacturing, and was soon followed by several other competitors producing cars for American roads by the thousands: Winton Motor Carriages, Ford Motors, Cadillac, and the Thomas B. Jeffery Company. By the end of 1903, there were around 9000 gasoline cars in the US. Technological improvements to the design were constantly being carried out to the design throughout this time, as they still are today. Within a decade, the gasoline run engine had easily eclipsed its competition, the steam engine and the electric car, and become the predominant means of horseless locomotion, which it remains today, although it maybe said that worldwide fuel scarcities are currently prompting a second look at some of the alternatives.

Submitted by: Lawrence Reaves

More from Lawrence Reaves >> Early Years of Automobile History: 1672-1875

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