Automobiles are vehicles that carry passengers or cargo over long distances, usually at a constant speed. Often they are powered by an internal combustion engine, but there are also electric cars and even hybrid automobiles. Several types of fuel are used, including gasoline, diesel oil, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), and natural or synthetic rubber.
The scientific and technical building blocks of the modern automobile date back several hundred years. The first horseless carriages were powered by steam engines, which reached high speeds but had limited range and required cumbersome storage. Battery-powered electric cars were more practical, but they were inconvenient to start and had a comparatively short range.
Karl Benz of Germany designed and built the world’s first motor car with an internal combustion engine, which was patented in 1885. Soon after, Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach developed a more refined three-wheeled version with a four-stroke engine.
In the United States, where a large population demanded widespread personal transportation, Ford greatly outpaced his competitors by reconciling state-of-the-art design with moderate price. The Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal praised the one-cylinder, three-horsepower, tiller-steered, curved-dash Oldsmobile of 1901-1906 as “the very first instance of a low-cost motorcar with high design features.”
Ford pioneered modern mass production techniques at his Highland Park, Michigan factory and was able to offer the Model T runabout for less than half the average annual wage in 1912. The American automobile revolution accelerated by the 1920s. As a result, the United States overtook Europe as a manufacturer and seller of vehicles.