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Who invented the car?

THERE are over 1.4 billion cars and other vehicles on the roads in the world today, and they are something we would struggle to live without.

But just how long have cars been in use – and who came up with the idea?


Cars have come a long way since the idea for the automobile was first conceived in the 1500s

Who was the original inventor of the car?

Karl Benz invented the first practically useful car with a combustion engine, which ran for the first time on New Year’s Eve in 1879.

This was preceded by the first electric car, which was invented by Robert Anderson in 1837, and was able to run off a single charge.

But the original idea for the invention of the car came centuries earlier, in the early 1500s, when painter and architect Leonardo da Vinci sketched a mechanised, horseless cart.

Da Vinci’s vehicle had a steering column and rack and pinion system, of the type seen in modern vehicles.


Cars have been developed over hundreds of years, with new models still being invented today

It was spring-driven, and needed to be wound up before setting off.

This might have been a little inconvenient, but his vehicle design has certainly been shown to be functional.

However, da Vinci’s car would have been almost impossible to build with the tools available at the time.

It was eventually built in 2004, and can now be seen at his final home – now a museum – Château du Clos Lucé, in France.

Mass production of cars came much later, in 1908, when Henry Ford opened his first car plant in Detroit, USA, with the invention of the Model T.


The combustion engine was a breakthrough in automobile development

When were cars invented?

The invention of the car started in 1500 with da Vinci’s sketch of a motorised cart.

It developed through to Karl Benz’s invention of the first useful car in 1879 – and is still an ongoing process today.

The invention of the combustion engine, which was patented by Jean Joseph-Etienne Lenoir in 1858, was vital to the invention of the car.

Lenoir’s coal gas-powered combustion engine was later adjusted to burn petroleum.


Cars today are a lot faster and sleeker than the original models

The first safe and practical oil engine, which burned two-stroke carrosine, was designed by George Brayton in 1873.

This was followed closely in 1876 by the first four-stroke engine, by Nikolaus August Otto.

A very popular, static one-cylinder, two-stroke gasoline-powered combustion engine was invented by Karl Benz, and first ran on New Year’s eve 1879.

The prototype of the modern gasoline engine came from Gotlieb Daimler in 1885.

And in 1895, a diesel compression-ignition internal combustion engine was patented by Rudolf Diesel.


There are billions of cars in the world, and many people today could not get around without themCredit: Josef Lindau/Getty

Meanwhile, in the world of electric cars, the first rechargeable lead-acid battery was invented by Gaston Plant in 1865, and modified for use in electric cars by Camille Faure.

An early electric car was built by William Morrison 1891, closely followed, at 62 miles per hour, by Camille Jenitzy in 1899.

The first hybrid car was invented by Ferdinand Porsche in 1900.

And a long-life nikel-alkaline battery was invented by Thomas Edison in 1907, and initially used in delivery trucks.


The combustion engine has developed vastly over timeCredit: The Mega Agency

What was the first car in the world?

The first car, or true automobile, in the world has long been recognised as the MotorWagen, patented by Karl Benz in 1886.

It was a two-seater, three-wheeled motor car, with three-spoke wheels – like a kind of common ancestor between horse-drawn buggies and other early cars.

It used a compact single-cylinder, four-stroke internal combustion engine, installed at the back, and was the first car to be practically useful.

Benz car company still exists today as the Daimler Group.


Today, Tesla is the leading name in electric cars

As well as the car, Benz also patented many automobile components, including his own throttle system, spark plugs, gear shifters, a water radiator, and carburetor.

Benz car also had an automatic intake slide, a controlled exhaust valve, and a high-voltage electrical vibrating ignition.

The first electric car came over 50 years before Benz’s invention, and was made by Robert Anderson in the 1830s.

Electric and gasoline cars were initially developed at similar rates, but in the early 20th century the petrol car became cheaper to produce and run.

If the electric car had won out at the time, we would probably refer today to Anderson’s electric car as the first.

Now electric vehicles are seen as cleaner, cheaper, and less politically complicated, they are being produced, or planned, by most car manufacturers.

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