When you think of the first car ever made, what comes to mind?
A three-wheeler with a rear-mounted steam-powered engine? Or maybe it's a horse buggy with thin-sized tires that look like something out of a Clint Eastwood movie?
These are all part of the story, for sure.
But I bet you've never heard of the Motorwagen. Oh yeah, the Motorwagen!!!
Whether you own a small sedan, ute, van, or SUV, every car you see Down Under would only have been a pipe dream if not for who invented the car; 'the Motorwagen'. Sure, you may give credit to popular car manufacturers for today's design you see on the roads, but in fact, you have a German engineer who invented the car to thank for that.
His name? Karl Benz.
This name may sound a bit strange to you, but soon enough, "Karl Benz" will be in mind every time you step into your vehicle.
In this post, we'll explore the history of the first automobile ever made, who invented the first car, and how it changed transportation. But first, let's travel through time to discover who invented the oldest car in the world. Let's roll!
Who Invented the Oldest Car in the World?
Driving a steam-powered vehicle down under may seem like a far cry from what you've been accustomed to, but this wasn't the case during the 17th century.
During this time, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot worked on a steam-powered vehicle he completed in 1769. He was tasked by the French army to develop this vehicle for the sole purpose of hauling cannons during the Revolutionary war.
Why steam-engine-powered cars? Well, steam was a reliable energy source in the 1700s, having proved reliable for powering trains and manufacturing plants. So, cars were entirely built on them.
It wasn't until the 1800s that steam-powered engines went out of phase due to the invention of an internal combustion engine. This remarkable milestone sparked the development of the MotorWagen.
Remember Karl Benz?
Widely regarded as the inventor of the first gas-powered car, Benz built a three-wheeler with a rear-mounted engine in 1885, for which he later received a patent in 1886.
The MotorWagen – looked much like an elongated tricycle with thin-sized tires and seats that sat two people. It had no roof, doors, windscreen, or even turn signals. Seriously, it was just like a wagon. It can be said that Karl Benz's Motorwagen sparked the beginning of a new era in the global automobile industry.
Many automakers followed in his footsteps, trying to invent something better.
One carmaker who improved upon the MotorWagen and invented his own version of the car was Henry Ford.
The American industrialist built his first successful automobile – the Ford Model T – with friends while working as an apprentice for a car producer in Detroit.
Nicknamed everyman's car, the Model T was introduced to the world in 1908 and quickly became popular for its low cost, durability, and ease of maintenance. It was so affordable that most Americans owned one, setting in motion a revolution of automobiles for everyone to enjoy.
Fast forward to today, the global automotive market has grown to be one of the leading industries in the world, with a worth of about 2.86 trillion dollars in 2021.
Opportunities in the industry seem nearly endless, with cars now accessible and affordable for more people. However, key trends are set to further push the automotive industry forward in the future: the autonomous driving, connectivity, electrification, and shared mobility (ACES) trends.
So buckle up, and let's see where this road takes us.
What's next for the automotive industry?
As the world leans towards a net-zero future, sustainability is set to become a key feature in the future of the automotive industry.
Automotive giants like Nissan, Tesla Motors, and Chevrolet have set the trend with autonomous and self-driving cars that are seeing a rise in popularity every day.
These cars reduce the need for people to drive with connected technologies that look set to transform everyday transportation. Plans for autonomous driving have been in the works for several years, with popular car brands like Tesla making great strides in this segment.
However, it's important to note that the electric car didn't just come about yesterday. In fact, some of the very first automobiles actually ran on electricity. They were a popular choice of car across the U.S.
Unlike steam and gas-powered cars, electric cars weren't difficult to start, and driving one didn't require gear shifts. They were also noiseless, easy to drive, and did not release CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
So why did they fall out of favor if they were so popular? Well, the decline of electric cars in the 1800s was due to a number of factors.
For one, they were very expensive for the middle class and difficult to run due to the high maintenance cost.
With Ford's everyman's car being very affordable, opting for a gas-powered vehicle seemed way reasonable for the middle class. With the discovery of oil in Texas, gas became cheap and readily available for rural Americans leading to a surge in demand for cheap gas-powered cars.
Electric cars also had bad batteries that didn't provide the range gas-powered cars had. Electricity was also unavailable in many rural cities, making gasoline-powered cars the automobiles of choice back then.
To improve battery range, many electric vehicle companies are investing heavily in research and design to build the most efficient electric cars on the market. Car models like the Tesla Model S, Hyundai Kona, Audi E-Tron, and MG ZS EV now offer a range of 200-500 kilometres from a full charge, which is far more than most will ever drive in one go.
However, while these firms have increased production capabilities with industry-leading technology, we're still some time away from a wider usage of electric cars.
However, we are starting to see a diversity in pricing and vehicle types, so public perception may also change. In the end, only time will tell what road electric cars will take and how they will impact the automobile industry.
Are You Looking to Buy a set of new wheels Down Under?
So, there you have it! A short story about who invented the first car.
It's a long and fascinating one that dates back to the 17th century when Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot built a steam-powered vehicle. However, Karl Benz gets the credit for who invented the car because his vehicle ran on a gasoline-powered engine like modern cars do today.
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