The birth of the car as we know it today took several years and the works and developments of many people. It was not until 1885 that the first car rolled down the streets; however, earlier attempts at steam powered road vehicles were successful, giving people the idea that cars as we know them today have existed for a lot longer than they have.
The first steam-powered vehicle was designed by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot and constructed by M. Brezin in 1769 and could attain speeds of up to 6 km/hour. Two years later, he designed another, much faster steam-driven engine, which was so fast that it rammed into a wall, recording the world’s first car accident. These early steam-powered vehicles were so heavy that they were only practical on a perfectly flat surface as strong as iron. However impractical as these cars may have been, the design for these vehicles were the basis for the first self-propelled vehicles and ultimately the basis for the design of the car we know today.
The next step towards the development of the car was the invention of the internal combustion engine. Francois Isaac de Rivaz designed the first internal combustion engine in 1807, using a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen to generate energy. Several designs were developed for a car to run on the internal combustion engine during the early 19 th century, but with little to no degree of commercial success due to the fact that there was no known fuel that could be safely internally combusted.
In 1860, Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir, a Frenchman, built the first successful two-stroke gas driven engine. Two years later, he again built an experimental vehicle by his gas-engine, which ran at a speed of 3 kms/hour and drove it from Paris to Joinville. Both of these cars became popular and by 1865 could be frequently seen on the roads. Unfortunately, Lenoir died broke before he could ever make any money or even enjoy his invention.
After several small changes to Lenoir’s design, In September of 1893, after several small changes to Lenoir’s design, the first gasoline powered car, built by brothers Charles and Frank Duryear, was ready for road trials. The first run on public roads was made on September 21, 1893 in Springfield, MA.. When most people think of the first cars on the road, they think Henry Ford, but it was not until 1896 that one of Henry Ford’s cars could be seen on the road. He sold his first car, which he called the Quadracycle, for 0 and used the money to build another car. With the financial backing of the Mayor of Detroit and other wealthy Detroiters, Ford formed the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899. A few prototypes were built, but no production cars were ever made by this company and it was dissolved in January 1901. Ford would not offer a car for sale again until 1903.
The development of the automobile changed the face of small-town America. As time passed, cars became less of luxury and more of a necessity. However, after a century of automobiles, we are finally realizing the long-term effects of transport by internal combustion and are looking for alternative forms of fuel and transportation.