An introduction to the Automobile
This chapter discusses the development of the automobile in a chronological
order, the main components and sub-assemblies, various design considerations, and
the major objectives of the automobile industry. The chapter describes an automobile
1.1. Development of the Automobile
The progress of means for transportation has been intimately associated with the progress
of civilisation. Transportation on land has evolved from the slow moving oxcart to the high-speed
automobile. A self-propelled vehicle used for transportation of goods and passengers on land
is called an automobile or automotive or motor vehicle. In general, modern automobile is a
complex piece of machinery perfoming in a safe, economical and efficient manner. It is comprised
of a chassis and a body. The chassis is made up of a frame supporting body, power unit, clutch
or fluid coupling, transmission system and control systems. Wheels and tyres through suspen-
sion system and axles, support the frame. The power delivered by the power unit (engine) is
transmitted through the clutch or fluid coupling, transmission system, and axles to the wheels.
The automobile is propelled on road due to friction between the tyre and road surface. The
various sub-systems are properly designed and held together for efficient functioning individual-
ly as well as whole unit. The protection and comfort is provided by the body and the suspension
system. The automobile has its limitations in regard to the load it can carry and the speed as
well as the distance it can carry the load.
Captain Nicholas Cugnot, a Frenchman, is considered to be the father of the “Automobile”.
Steam engines were used as the power plant in first self-propelled vehicles. In 1769, the steam
engine operated Cugnot’s artillery tractor was first built in France. It had a three-wheeled coach.
The speed of this vehicle was 5 km per hour with a cruising range of about 13 km. In 1802, the
first practical steam automobile was built by Richard Trevitluck of England using a crankshaft,
for the first time. In 1805, Oliver Evan operated his Evan’s Amphibian for the first time in
Philadelphia, America. This vehicle was designed with four wheels and the body was in the form
of a flat boat. In 1821, Julis Griffith of England built the first comfortable steam powered vehicle.
Two outstanding successes in America were the Stanley Steamer and the White Steam Car,
introduced in 1895 and 1902 respectively. Both of these automobiles gave excellent performance.
The Stanley Steamer is credited with being the first self-propelled vehicle to attain a road speed
of 160 km per hour.
The automobile propelled by gas engine was built in 1863. A Frenchman, Lenoir invented
it. He drove his vehicle for about 11 km. The vehicle used a one-cylinder engine using lighting
gas. During next few years, a large amount of experimental works were carried out on both the
engines and carriages.
The development of the internal combustion engine changed radically the history of motor
vehicle production. Belgium inventor, Elenne Lenoir, in 1860 demonstrated first time the
operation of internal combustion engine. The French engineer, Beau-de-Rcohas in 1862 laid
down the conditions, which must prevail in order to obtain maximum efficiency. In 1876, Otto
embodied these principles in an actual engine. He put a new type of engine into commercial
production using coal gas as the fuel and working on four-stroke cycles, known as ‘Otto cycle’.
Dugald Clark invented an engine in 1880 based on two-stroke cycle. And modern two-stroke
engines appeared in 1891 due to Day. Gottlieb Daimler in Germany patented an internal
combustion engine in 1885-86 and installed this engine in a bicycle. In 1986, Carl Benz of
Germany also built a three wheeled carriage or tricycle (Fig. 1.1) propelled by an internal
combustion engine working on Otto cycle. It attained a speed of 16 km per hour and produced
approximately 6 kW power. Daimler’s engine is the first high speed, light construction power
unit producing 800 to 1000 rpm in contrast to earlier heavier gas engines, which could run at
150 to 200 rpm. Almost in the same period a Frenchman, Fernand Forest, built a four-cylinder
engine and is also credited with the development of a carburettor.
Fig. 1.1. A tricycle built by Carl Benz.
The patent rights to Dailmer’s light and fast engine were granted to M.Levassor of Panhard
and Levassor. This Frenchman developed entirely a new type of vehicle in 1894. The engine was
placed in front of a chassis, hooked up to a clutch, a sliding gear transmission and differential.
The vehicle also incorporated brake pedals and an accelerator.
Around the turn of the century, gasoline automobiles had stiff competition with steam and
electric automobiles. The steam and electrically powered automobile had the advantage of an
abundance of power at low speed, making a transmission unnecessary. The danger of high-pres-
sure steam boilers and the inconvenience of recharging electric batteries reduced their
popularity. On the other hand, the gasoline-powered vehicle, despite the necessity of the
transmission, had the advantage of producing a large amount of power from a small quantity
of fuel, which could be replenished easily and quickly.
Charles E. Duryea and his brother Frank Duryea, of Massachusetts, successfully operated
the first gasoline-powered vehicle in America on 12th September 1892. The vehicle was
propelled by a 4-horse power (2.9 kW) gasoline motor. It was known as the “horseless bugg”. In
1895, Henry Ford started the construction of the ‘quadricycle’, which was driven by a two-
cylinder gasoline engine. In this year 300 cars were produced in USA. In the year 1900, the first
front-mounted power units were constructed at Columbia. In 1901, Oldsmobile began the
production of its framed curveddash automobile. The Cadillac Company came in 1902. In 1903
the Brick Motor Company and the Ford Motor Car Company were established and the Packard
Company shifted to Detroit. In this year, Cadillac produced 1,895 units and Oldsmobile 4,000
units. Brick produced 750 cars in 1905. In 1908, Ford put 20,000 vehicles of his Model T on the
From the year 1900 onwards, the improved design of automobiles fully awakened the public
to the greater utilities of this new form of transportation. During 1900 to 1906, the production
and sales of these vehicles become a real business. In America alone, there were 121 car
manufactures. The years that followed 1906 to 1920 are considered the era of mass production
and interchange-ability methords permitting lower price production. The mass production of
automobiles is a masterpiece of skill and organisation. Henry Ford in America is credited with
developing some of the earliest mass production methods. In England, William Morris employed
similar methods in the early 1920 in order to market a low priced motorcar.
Fig. 1.2. A typical 1910 car.
With the year 1920 began the period of gradual change and refinement in the automobile
design. The electric self-starter Was introduced in this period. The advent of World War I
11914-18! necessitated the rapid development of the automobiles to take over the job of transport
and even to serve as fighting units. After the World War I, automobile manufacturers con-
centrated on the refinement of power units and all automotive components for the next twenty
years. The spark ignition gasoline engine was the power plant of motor vehicle. The engine made
was compact. light, high speed, perfectly balanced and free from vibration, streamlined, air_0X-
water cooled, noiseless and capable of running on different fuels. The steam and electric engines
were no more in use. The engine was located in the front of the chassis. The sliding gear
transmission and poppet valve had established their utility for every engine design. The main
changes had been the increased tyre life, replacement of rigid front axle with iridepenotent front
wheel suspension, fourwheel hydraulic brakes, and increased engine compression ratios and
use of stronger and cheaper materials. The internal combustion engines powered the armed
sevices of all World Powers during World War II (1939-45).
Ackroyd-Stuart, an Englishman and Rudolf Diesel, a German developed the diesel engine
around 1890. However, only in 1927 it was realised that diesel engines had some advantages
over petrol engines, such as lower fuel costs, reduced maintenance costs, low fire risk and more
uniform torque over a wide range of engine speeds. High thermal efficiency is the primary reason
why almost all commercial vehicles in the medium to heavy range are powered by diesel engines.
Despite their low output in terms of both power per litre and per kg, which translates into higher
initial cost and greater bulk and weight for a given power output, diesel engines still offer lower
overall cost of operation. Although the first diesel vehicle on the roads of the UK was a Mercedes
lorry in 1928, the first diesel car in series production was the 1936 Mercedes 260 D. In the
meantime, one diesel powered vehicle, the Bently, competed in the RAC Rally in 1932 at an
average speed of 128 kmph. In mid 1970s Volkswagen fitted 1.5 litre indirect injection engine
(IDI) to the Golf (Rabbit in the US). This development was really the derivative of a petrol engine.
It used a toothed belt to drive both its overhead camshaft and its distribution type fuel injection
pump. The engine had a specific power output of 25 kW per litre. The French manufacturers,
Peugeot-Citroen and Renault, were quick to follow with some excellent diesel vehicles in the
1980s. In 1997 in the USA, there were virtually no diesel-powered cars but, with the steady rise
in fuel cost and fears of a fuel shortage following the 1973 oil crisis, the market for diesel-powered
vehicles expanded rapidly. By 1981, however, fuel prices were dropping again, and the demand
for the diesel cars fallen steeply. In Japan, the demand has increased steadily since about 1976.
In the past, the gasoline-fuelled engine has been more attractive for cars because it has
offered much better acceleration and top speed. This has been because not only the specific power
of the diesel engine is inferior, but also it is heavier and more bulky, and therefore adds
significantly to the overall weight of the vehicle. Other factors, which have been largely offset
by improvements to diesel fuels and engines over the decade in question, include unpleasant
smell, noise, problems in very cold weather, etc. However, the weight problem has been greatly
ameliorated by the use of turbo-charging, which can be applied to better advantage to diesel
than gasoline engines.
With the increasing application of turbo-charging and other advances, specific power
outputs have been improved, and engines operating over wider speed ranges and that are quieter
have been developed. Furthermore, as production quantities have increased, prime costs have
fallen. Exhaust smoke, often quoted as a disadvantage, can be totally eliminated by rigorous
control over the adjustment of the fuelling system. Improvements in both diesel fuels and
additives have helped to overcome the problems of noise, smell and cold weather operation.
Consequently, objections to diesel power for cars have been rendered irrelevant. Mercedes-Benz,
Peugeot and Volkswagen were the pioneers in the introduction of turbochargers to passenger
car diesels. However, V W Golf introduced the most successful package on the Golf. Indeed, by
the end of the decade 1980-1990, there were diesel cars on the road capable of running at 192
kmph with accelerations comparable to those of gasoline-powered cars. A good example is the
1991 Citroen XM powered by the 2.1 litre turbocharged diesel engine compared with the 2.0
litres carburettor and injection engines respectively. Their 0 to 100 kmph acceleration figures
are respectively 11.1, 11.0 and 13.3s, and their top speeds 190, 192 and 203 kmph. From the
environmental viewpoint, the diesel engine emits less than a third of the HC, about 1% of the
CO and 30% less CO2 than do gasoline engines. It has, however, a tendency to emit particulates
and higher proportions of NOx.
The most rapid development in passenger car diesel technology, however, has occurred in
mid 1990s. Engine families, which include both petrol (gasoline) and diesel variants, have
become the standard approach, allowing both types of engines to be produced with the manufac-
turing equipment and to be easily adapted to changing customer demands. Isuzu (Japan), Ford
(UK), Peugeot(France), VM Motori (Italy), Cummins and Caterpillar are the major contributor
in the field. In addition to turbo-charging, the 1990s saw the wide spread adoption of many new
features such as inter-cooling, exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), multi-valve cylinder head and
diesel oxidation catalysts. Direct injection (DI) technology and electronic injection control were
very important introductions. In 1992, diesel cars accounted for well over 12% of all registrations
in the UK, and the increase in demand for diesel fuel for cars was about 22%, as against 7% for
In India the first motorcar was imported in 1898 and it was continued for about 50 years
thereafter. Shri M Visveswaraya made an attempt for the establishment of an automobile
industry in 1935 and the Government did not approve the plan. The first automobile factory in
India, Hindustan Motors Limited (Calcutta) was set up in the year 1947 and then came Premier
Automobiles Limited (Bombay) in 1948. They were initially producing cars. On the recommen-
dation of the tariff commissions, in 1953 the Government of India discouraged the activities of
assemblers, established at Bombay, Calcutta and Madras by leading foreign manufacturers, to
ensure economic output of the automobiles and provided a further protection to the industry in
1956 with priority for manufacture of commercial vehicle, expansion of capacity of existing units
and incresed production of diesel vehicles. Both defence vehicles and civil vehicles were produced
in India. By April 1971 the number of vehicles on Indian roads was above 16 lakhs. Maruti
Udyog Limited, the only poblic undertaking company came up during 1979 in callaboration with
Suzuki (Japan). As of 1996, Priemier had 7 car models, Maruti 7 models, Hindustan Motors 5
models, Mahendra 4 models, TATA 4 models and DCM-Daewoo 2 models. Probably never in the
history of the automobile industry have so many car manufacturers rushed into a country, i.e.
India, in so little time. Within 15 years, the Indian consumer’s choice of just two cars has
increased to over 30 different models, and though the number is still small compared to that in
the developed market, it is rapidly expanding. DCM-Daewoo launched the Ceilo in mid-1995.
The year 1996 had been a special year seeing the launch of many significant vehicles such as
the Mercedes, the Astra, the Uno, the Escort, the 309 GLD and the Gypsy King. Most carmakers
were looking to manufacture a small car for India. Also, the increase in the cost of petrol had
made diesel vehicles the increasingly attractive choice in India.
In the fiscal year 1998-99, 42,27,469 vehicles were sold in the Indian market out of which
passenger cars constituted 9.24%, two-wheelers 79.61% and the balance other categories. The
year 1999 saw 15 new light vehicles in India in the 4-wheels category with a total of 78 vehicle
models in capacity ranges of800 cc to 2500 cc running on roads. Out of these vehicles 40 models
use diesel operated power units. General Motors Opel Astra Metro 1.7 T, and TELCO Sierra 2
T and Safari 2WD 2T, 4WD 2T have diesel turbo-engines. Several mini cars introduced during
late 1998 in the capacityrn range of 800 cc-such as Daewoo Motors Matiz SP- had premium
features such as power windows, central door locking, a stereo system, power steering, rear
window defogger. a rear wiper and roof rail. If these years saw an almost revolutionary pace in
introduction of new car models and features 1999, 2000 and 2001 have only seen an increase
in both. Some of the.new models include Hundai XZ 2972 cc, Tata Indica, Maruti Alto, Mercedez
S-320 etc. Electric cars are projected to soon enter mass production in India, while CNG and
LPG vehicles are already proliferating due to anti-pollution government measures. Micro cars
using engine of capacities around 500 cc are expected to be introduced in India soon. Kinetic
Engineering Ltd (KEL) is bringing out a cheap 480 cc model mini car, which is essentially a
French micro car modified to Indian market.
The automobile of today is the culmination of many years of pioneering research and
development. It is a highly complicated machine involving numerous efficient and dependable
mechanical, electrical and electronic devices. In 1996 there were over 6000 automotive suppliers
in over 60 countries across the world. The automobile’s golden age lies ahead for the driver and
the consumer. High technology inventions such as fluorescent dashboards, computerised gears,
and bonnet raindrop detectors (which automatically activate the windscreen wipers) are in
offering. An aerodynamically designed body covers a network of computer controls for respond-
ing to the driver’s instructions, adjusting to the road conditions, and to rescue the driver from
mistakes. Many luxury cars are already using microprocessor driven colour instrument panels.
Many cars use multiplex wiring using optic-fibre cables. This carries messages from more
than one instrument, which enables car makers to install more controls on the steering column.
Ford is using such wiring to put 10 control buttons at driver’s fingertips. A touch-sensitive
dashboard display screen through which the driver is able to control radio, interior temperature
and trip computer by just putting a finger to the screen has been introduced in Brick car.
Computer controlled active suspensions, whose rudimentary versions have already appeared
on sedans by Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi, are the ultimate improvement in automobile
handing. By pushing a button on the dashboard on a Mitsubishi version, the driver can select
either a hard mode or an automatic mode to let the vehicle decide whether a hard or soft ride
is most appropriate for the driving conditions. The car automatically stiffens its suspension
during hard cornering or hard braking or at high speeds and makes the suspensions less stiff
at low speeds. By comparing the steering wheel motions and speeds, the computer controls the
pumping up and deflection of air springs and the variation of distribution of fluid within shock
absorbers in Mitsubishi models in order to perform the above functions. Lotus Cars Ltd. is
developing a far more refined suspension system replacing springs and shock absorbers
completely with hydraulic pistons. Computers adjust the car to road irregularities and cornering
forces. Programmed suspensions are being used for truly exotic effects like keeping a car level
while taking a turn instead of leaning over.
Computers also help to obtain finer control over engine functions resulting in greater
operating efficiency. For example, the function of opening and closing of valves is expected to
be taken over from mechanical crankshafts by tiny, powerful electromagnets in General Motors
vehicles. This reduces engine weight and complexity. Computers also control the valve actions
and maximise engine efficiency. General Motors and Ford sedans are using computers to adjust
the mixture of petrol and air keeping engine efficient even if the spark plugs wear, air filters
get dirty and the quality of petrol varies. It is expected that a future car might recognise the
owner or driver by his/her infrared key and open its door, adjust its climate control seat, mirrors,
handling and fuel economy to suit the driver person and start the engine. Some of these features
have already debuted in current cars.
Sports (racing) car has demonstrated its operation above supersonic speed when British car
“Thrust SSC” exhibited a record speed of 1233.7 km/hr on road during 1997. The car uses two
numbers Rolls Royce Spe 205 turbofan engines capable of developing 74600 kW. It has a pick
up of 161 km/hr in 4 seconds after start and subsequently 966 km/hr in 16 seconds. The project
cost to build the car was about 325 million rupees.
IBM, Delco Electronics, Netscape Communications and Sun Microsystems have recently
displayed a smart car that works on the technique of Global Positioning through satellite (GPS).
The car plans its shortest route between two destinations. The car can talk with the driver, can
read e-mail, and can receive and deliver Fax messages. On listening to the desire of the
passenger, it takes to the nearest restaurant.