Story of vehicles; From steam to gasoline

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Do you remember your primary school days when your favourite teacher used to take the entire class to a nearby car museum and explain how the automotive industry developed with time? I clearly remember the story of cars that my teacher narrated. Let me share an essence of it with you.

Once upon a time, a young gentleman called Nikolaus August Otto, a salesman for a grocery concern came across an internal combustion engine built in Paris during 1860. Back then the 18-litre Lenoir engine was capable of producing only 2 horsepower. (Whereas the current 1-litre engine produces a minimum of 60 to 70 horsepower). After seeing this engine with almost 2% efficiency, Mr Otto was motivated to work on building an efficient compact engine. He came up with the idea of compressing the fuel mixture in order to run the engine, but he failed several times, either the engine got off in no time or it ended up in destruction. In spite of successive failures, Mr Otto did not give up. Instead, he worked hard collaborating with many great minds. In the coming years, he worked with experts in this area like MrLangen, Mr Daimler, and MrMaybach, while improving his skills. Eventually, during the year 1876, he along with Langen successfully built an internal combustion engine, which compressed the fuel mixture prior to combustion to produce higher efficiency. The efficiency they achieved was far higher than the efficiency that ever existed until that date.

Later Mr Daimler and MrMaybach independently worked to develop a high-speed Otto engine. Incorporating the hot-tube ignition system, Ligroin fuel and the four stroke based Otto engine, they built the world’s first vehicle with an internal combustion engine. With this success, they formed a German based automobile company called “Daimler MotorenGesellschaft”, famously known today as “Daimler-Benz.” Isn’t it interesting?

Later the automobile industry developed with rapid growth. The development was reflected in the engine and design of the vehicles. Speaking about engines, the bulkier engine started to get compact with higher efficiency. Two-wheeler pedalling bikes were motorised, and today it is well known as motorbikes. It started with two stroke and is now leading the market in four stroke form. The major difference between two stroke and four stroke engine is that in order to power a two stroke engine, the engine performs two strokes; Combustion stroke and Compression stroke. Whereas to power a four stroke engine, the engine performs four strokes; Intake stroke, Compression stroke, Combustion stroke, and Exhaust stroke. The four stroke technology is gaining popularity due to its longevity and smoother performance. On the other hand, four stroke makes the engine heavier and slower. It is, therefore, less recommended for instances where instant acceleration is necessary.

Along with efficient engine, automotive designs have evolved drastically incorporating aerodynamics that mimic nature. Along with metal, the vehicles are built with different variants of plastics and polymers. In the last few decades, the semiconductors in the form of electronics are invading the automotive sector to a great extent. We can clearly see that as the cost contribution of electronics alone in automobiles has increased from 18%-20% up to 40%.

As mentioned above, the automobile industry today follows the trend of including semiconductor technology at multiple scales. That includes Semiconductor examples like sensors, chips that hold millions of lines of codes to enable intelligence function, airbags, and the famous touchscreen infotainment system among others.

In brief, the journey of transformation of automobiles, from the first ever built engine to the present day vehicles is mesmerising and motivating. Advancement in science and technology turned everything around us magical.

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