Automobiles (also known as cars) are four-wheeled vehicles with seating for one to six people and a motor that drives them. In 2002 there were 590 million passenger cars in use worldwide (roughly one car for every eleven people). These vehicles are used primarily for transportation, although some are also used to haul goods. There are many different types of automobiles in use, ranging from small and simple to large and expensive.
The history of the automobile began with the invention of the internal combustion engine, a type of engine that burns fuel to generate power for a vehicle’s moving parts. The first true automobile was built by Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot in 1769, which had three wheels and was powered by steam. Steam-powered cars, called phaetons, dominated the road vehicle market until around 1900. These vehicles were heavy and moved slowly. Manufacturers then tried to make cars that ran on electric power or gasoline. Gasoline-powered cars had the advantage of being lighter and faster than steam cars, but gasoline engines also spewed a lot of pollution into the atmosphere. Ultimately, manufacturers settled on the internal combustion engine powered by fossil fuels like oil and gas.
Henry Ford began producing his Model T in 1910, and his innovation of the assembly line helped make the automobile available to the masses. His assembly line allowed cars to be produced more quickly and at a lower cost than ever before, so more families could afford a car. The automobile facilitated a rise in leisure activities, such as road trips and camping, and helped spur new services like restaurants, motels and service stations. It ended rural isolation and brought urban amenities to remote areas, such as better schools and medical care. It also helped build highways and other infrastructure.
SAVES TIME: Automobiles allow you to cover large distances with ease, and thus save time on commutes or shopping. You can also save time by being able to visit friends and family more easily, which makes the car a very valuable asset in many ways.
OPENS UP THE WORLD: Owning a car gives you freedom to travel wherever you want. It lets you see more of the country and the world than you would be able to do if you relied on public transportation or flying. It also opens up job opportunities and allows you to move where your career is taking you.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS: The environmental impact of an average automobile begins at the factory, with the manufacture and assembly of its various parts and materials. The most important impacts occur during driving, with nearly 90 percent of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions resulting from fuel consumption. Once the vehicle reaches the end of its useful life, it can be recycled or crushed for scrap metal.
There are many ways to reduce the environmental impact of an automobile, such as using hybrid or electric models, recycling and reusing car parts, and driving less. However, even the best-intentioned drivers can still have a significant impact on the environment.