Since the development of the steam engine people had been interested in creating self-powered vehicles, this manifested during the industrial revolution as the train. However, as time went on people became interested in creating a vehicle that wasn’t confined to tracks. The earliest attempts were moderately successful but served little practical purpose. Automobiles first began to truly spread with the invention of the electric motor which created cheaper, more powerful, and safer automobiles. Still the automobile still had numerous problems and were mainly in the hands of the rich. It was the development of the internal combustion engine and the assembly line that was truly able to create a practical vehicle that could be used by all and propelled the automobile into the heart of American culture and made it one of the most significant inventions of the post-industrial revolution era, resulting in a complete revolution of society.
The earliest prototypes of self-powered vehicles began in the 1700’s with the first one being built by Nicholas Cugnot, weighing over 8000 pounds and clocking in at a top speed of 2 miles per hour (Bottorff). This large size and slow speed meant that it was impractical as an automobile. Several other prototype vehicles were built in this style by various inventors but were so heavy that they required metal rails to drive on, and so over time they evolved into trains and locomotives (Bottorff). Trains and steam power continued to develop and interest in a self-powered vehicle that didn’t require tracks faded, until the mid-1800’s when new developments in power sources encouraged the development of the automobile.
The earliest automobiles were powered by steam; however, it was a very poor power source due to its price, weight, start-up times, and tendency to explode. This limited the development of automobiles until a better power source was developed; this power source was discovered in 1834 with the creation of the first practical electric motor by Moritz Jacobi (Doppelbauer). This motor though, lacked the power to drive an automobile and it wasn’t until 1884 that Thomas Parker built the first practical electric automobile ("World's first electric car built"). Many other people continued the development and improvement of electric automobiles and for a time electric automobiles were the preferred type of Automobile because of their quiet ride, quick start-up, and lack of pollution. In fact electric automobiles held the land speed record well into the early 1900’s. However, they began to decline in the early 1900’s because of the increased prevalence and efficiency of the internal combustion engine.
The invention and use of the internal combustion engine was a pivotal point in the history of the automobile. The first attempt at an internal combustion engine was in 1673 by Christian Huygens, using gunpowder as the fuel source, though it was basically worthless as you had to open the engine up and put new gunpowder in it...