The history of the automobile is a long and winding road, and pinpointing exactly who invented the car is not a simple matter. But if you rewind the evolution of cars past GPS, past antilock brakes and automatic transmissions and even past the Model T, eventually you'll get to the Benz Motor Car No. 1, the missing link between cars and horse-drawn buggies.
Karl Benz patented the three-wheeled Motor Car in 1886. It was the first true, modern automobile. Benz also patented his own throttle system, spark plugs, gear shifters, a water radiator, a carburetor and other fundamentals to the automobile. Benz eventually built a car company that still exists today as the Daimler Group.
Long history of the car
Benz patented the first gasoline-powered car, but he wasn't the original visionary of self-propelled vehicles. Some highlights in the history of the car:
- Leonardo da Vinci had sketched a horseless, mechanized cart in the early 1500s. Like many of his designs, it wasn't built in his lifetime.
- In 1769, a Frenchman named Nicholas-Joseph Cugnot built a self-propelled vehicle with a steam engine. The cart moved at a walking pace and was abandoned.
- Sometime between 1832 and 1839, Robert Anderson of Scotland invented the first electric carriage, which used a rechargeable battery that powered a small electric motor. The vehicles were heavy, expensive and required frequent recharging. They were abandoned in favor of gasoline-powered engines.
Internal combustion engines
Vital to the modern automobile is the internal combustion engine. This type of engine uses an explosive combustion of fuel to push a piston within a cylinder. The piston's movement turns a crankshaft that is connected to the car's wheels of a drive shaft. Like the car itself, the internal combustion engine has a long history. An incomplete list of developments includes:
- 1826: Englishman Samuel Brown altered a steam engine to burn gasoline and put it on a carriage, but this proto-automobile also never gained widespread adoption.
- 1858: Jean Joseph-Etienne Lenoir patented a double-acting, electric spark-ignition internal combustion engine fueled by coal gas. He improved on that engine so it would run on petroleum, attached it to a three-wheeled wagon and traveled 50 miles.
- 1873: American engineer George Brayton developed a two-stroke kerosene engine. It is considered to be the first safe and practical oil engine.
- 1876: Nikolaus August Otto patented the first four-stroke engine in Germany.
- 1885: Gottlieb Daimler invented the prototype of the modern gasoline engine.
Karl Benz, inventor of the first practical, modern automobile.
Innovative and entrepreneurial
Karl Benz gets the credit for inventing the automobile because his car was practical, used a gasoline-powered internal-combustion engine and worked like modern cars do today.
Benz was born in 1844 in Karlsruhe, a city in southwest Germany. His father was a railway worker who died in an accident when Benz was 2 years old. Although poor, Benz's mother supported him and his education. He was admitted to the University of Karlsruhe at age 15 and graduated in 1864 with a mechanical engineering degree.
Benz's first venture of an iron foundry and sheet-metal workshop flopped. However his new bride, Bertha Ringer, used her dowry to fund a new factory to build gas engines. With the profits Benz was free to start building a horseless, gas-powered carriage.
Benz had built three prototypes of his Motor Car in private by 1888, when Bertha decided it was time for some press. Bertha took the latest model in the early morning and drove her two teenage sons 66 miles to her mother's home. She had to improvise repairs along the way with shoe leather, a hair pin and her garter.
The successful trip showed Benz how to improve the car, and showed a dubious public that automobiles were useful. Benz demonstrated the Model 3 Motorwagen at the World's Fair in Paris the following year.
Benz died in 1929, just two years after he merged with fellow car-maker Gottlieb Daimler's company to form what is today the Daimler Group, manufacturer of the Mercedes-Benz.
Lauren Cox is a contributing writer for Live Science. She writes health and technology features, covers emerging science and specializes in news of the weird. Her work has previously appeared online at ABC News, Technology Review and Popular Mechanics. Lauren loves molecules, literature, black coffee, big dogs and climbing up mountains in her spare time. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from Smith College and a master of science degree in science journalism from Boston University.how many science questions are on the teas which product results from the breakdown of fibrin why equipment is important in sports what solution kills ants where heavy equipment who set up paypal who project in ku how much project management cost which teaching jobs are in demand who science is it the de whose solution is y2 3ay x3 which design is seen in the gummersmark brooch what are modern technological devices where to put technical skills on resume how manufacturer's warranty what london airport to fly into why science is wrong how business taxes work who manufacturer maruti suzuki engine where is meg from design star why business fail startup who is vera how many startups make it who project in india where technology is used how far technology has its impact on education how much london trip cost from india how much solution to put in vax carpet cleaner where is sany equipment from who am i entrepreneur how manager can motivate employees do most entrepreneurs fail where to get technical manuals for poppi where to solve limits how to state a solution how many start up business fail why equipment is uncountable whose science is it anyway how much science is in psychology how much tech trash from computer how many project sekai characters are there where's video manager on youtube how solutions are saturated what technology was made in 2020 how many teaching positions are open in nc how many management courses are there who pays workers compensation where product key windows 7 how much start up money for monopoly startup where to watch why project fail how teaching methods affect learning how technological change affects jobs why company register in delaware where to watch science fell in love when manufacturing date where to develop disposable cameras where to set up an llc where technology is going where does development occur what workers want 2022 how tech companies make money how often answers survey how much system data is normal on mac what solutions are hypotonic where can i buy a roadmap where startup windows 7 weathertech where technology is going how many business weeks in a year where manufacturing overhead where management system how many design patterns are there in microservices how to device manager who developed the let s move initiative where is tottenham manager from what entrepreneur does how much london congestion charge which device is a general purpose computing device what manufacturer makes infiniti entrepreneur where to start whose teaching is in support of education for all how much london bus where business analyst work what solutions conduct electricity how much solution for hoover carpet cleaner burow's solution where to buy how entrepreneur works how much engineering colleges in india when system is in working state asus where are lf system from how often should disinfectant solutions be changed where to develop old film how company equity works what london airport to fly into which management ports are available where to equip great runes which entrepreneur are you quiz whose company or who's company where can i buy a roadmap how manager can motivate employees london who started the great fire when science speaks podcast where to equip trinkets rdr2 which business degree is right for me who's are whose how much start up money for garage sale where to develop disposable cameras where house manager where product key windows 7 how company 401k match works what solutions are hypertonic how much entrepreneur make a year how far phone from eyes how many tech jobs are there where is start up how far can technology advance how many startup fails