it is Karl Benz who is credited with the first prototype (in 1885)
of the modern car, the first self-propelled vehicle was invented
more than 100 years earlier. However unlike the "Benz model", most
of the machines designed during that period were steam-propelled.
The early car era nonetheless played an extremely significant
role in the evolution of today's car.
- Nicolas Cugnot - The very first car
1771 - The First Motor Accident
1807 - Isaac de Rivaz - The internal combustion engine
1860 - Jean Etienne Lenoir - Commercializing the two-stroke
1865 - Red Flag Act
1876 - Nikolaus August Otto - Four-stroke engine
- NICOLAS CUGNOT
The very first self-propelled
car was built in 1769, when Nicolas Cugnot, a French military engineer
designed a steam powered road-vehicle.
The vehicle was built at the Paris Arsenal, and was used by the
French Army to move cannons. It had three wheels with the engine
in the front along with the boiler. While Cugnot's 'car' was capable
of attaining speeds of upto 6 kms/hour, it was far too heavy and
slow to be of practical use.
- THE FIRST MOTOR ACCIDENT
Nicolas Cugnot who designed
the first car in 1769 made another steam-driven vehicle two years
later, also at the Paris Arsenal. The machine reportedly ran quite
well, although on one occasion it ran into a wall, thus recording
the world's first motor-accident. The vehicle may still be seen
today in the Conservatoire Nationale des Arts et Metiers in Paris.
- Francois Isaac de Rivaz
Issac de Rivaz (Switzerland), designed several successful steam-run
cars towards the late 18th century. In 1807 he designed an "internal
combustion engine".The engine was gas driven and used a mixture
of hydrogen and oxygen to generate energy.
de Rivaz used this engine to develop a car, and the occasion was
historic. This was the first vehicle to run on an internal combustion
engine. In subsequent years Rivaz worked on his design, and
in 1813 developed a 6 metres long car, weighing almost a ton.
- Jean Etienne Lenoir
The early 19th century saw several different designs of the internal
combustion engine (including that of de Rivaz, who also built a
car based on his engine). However none of these early designs showed any degree of commercial success.
The first successful internal combustion engine was a two-stroke
gas driven engine patented by Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir of Belgium
in 1860. In 1862 he built an experimental vehicle driven by his
gas-engine, which managed to achieve a speed of 3 kms/hour. By 1865
around 500 of these engines were in use in Paris alone.
- Red Flag Act
Progress in the development of cars saw stiff opposition from companies
running horse-driven coaches. In the mid-1800s turnpike charges
(similar to toll charges) for the "early cars" that which were then
plying on road, were steeply hiked. These heavy and crudely built
steam-driven vehicles must have badly damaged roads, and to some
extent the increase was possibly justified.
The 'Locomotives on Highways Act' (Red Flag Act) was passed
by the British Government in 1865. It was intended to regulate the
use of heavy traction engines pulling large loads. The Act limited
speeds to 6.4 kms per hour in the country and 3.2 in towns. It also
required that every road locomotive must have three attendants -
one to steer, one to stoke and one to walk 50 metres ahead of
the vehicle, bearing a red flag, signaling the driver when to stop.
The Red Flag Act discouraged further developments of road-steam-vehicles.
A subsequent Act passed 13 years later in 1878 did away with the
red flag, but nevertheless the vehicle still had to be preceded
by a man on foot to warn drivers of horse-driven coaches.
- Nikolaus August Otto
The first practical "four-stroke" engine was patented by
the Otto and Langen Company of Deutz, Germany.
Nikolaus Otto was a salesman with a grocer when he read of Lenoir's
two-stroke gas-driven internal combustion engine. Otto started a
workshop in Deutz near Cologne, supported by Langen in 1863. He
had a model engine built and improved upon the gas engine, making
it a practical power source. The four-stroke Otto Engine was invented
in 1876, and a large number of engines were produced under the patent
of Otto and Langen.
It was however, a German engineer named Gottlieb Daimler, who, carried
out much of the development work on the engine. Daimler was at the
time employed with Otto and Langen, and a substantial credit for
the success is due to him.