Few inventions in modern times have had as great an influence on our society and economy as the automobile. The automotive industry is one of the largest in the world, and there are many different types of automobiles – from two-wheeler vehicles such as motorcycles and scooters to four-wheeled passenger cars and trucks.
The scientific and technical building blocks for automobiles date back several hundred years. In the late 1600s Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens developed a version of the internal combustion engine that powered a horseless carriage. Inventors worked hard to make these engines practical for everyday use. They tried steam, electric power, and gasoline (which is now the most common fuel for cars). Gasoline-powered vehicles won out over electric and steam cars because gasoline could be stored more easily than either of those other two sources of energy, and they had a much greater range for travel between stops.
Thousands of parts make up the modern automobile. Just like the human body, it is organized into several semi-independent systems, including a circulatory system for coolant fluid and lubricating oil, an electrical system, and an engine, which is the heart of the car.
The engine is powered by a series of cylinders, usually from four to eight cylinders. Each cylinder is timed to fire in a specific sequence, which turns the crankshaft to drive the wheels. The suspension system enables the wheels to absorb shocks and variations in the road surface, which makes for a smooth ride.