Key Breakthroughs in Automotive Design
Itís amazing to consider how far the automotive industry has evolved over 130 years; from driving crude motorised wagons to highly sophisticated machines in little over a century. What started as a mechanical replacement for the horse and cart has radically ascended in terms of performance, luxury and safety.
Our most significant breakthroughs can be found as we advance through motor technology then vehicle design.
Back in 1769 the possibilities of steam-powered transport became reality. A revolutionary moment, humans would no longer have to rely on animals for personal transportation. By using a coal-burning furnace water could be turned to steam. By design of the engine, this energy transfer can be harnessed and transformed into forward motion.
Internal Combustion Engines
After the initial breakthrough it wasnít long before we were looking into other possibilities. A far more suitable engine was created, the internal combustion engine. By 1806 they had become widely popular, knocking out steam engines in cars for good. Initially they ran on far cruder fuel sources, it wasnít until 1885 they switched to the petroleum fuel we recognise today.
Development of combustion engines was unstoppable, yet during the 20th century we did begin toying with electric car technology. Sadly it didnít gather much attention or development at this time. It wasnít until the 21st century that we started to explore the potential of electric transportation. Electric cars have finally made into the mass markets in recent years, but they have not yet replaced our highly refined combustion engines.
Overall Vehicle Design
Early Industrial Era
During early industrial times vehicle design was bare bones. The driverís seat was quite simply mounted on top of the chassis in the middle of the action, control levers and pedals within reach.† They used large wagon style wheels, exposed mechanicals, no protection and little comfort was built into their design.
Moving into the next era vehicles design shifted, moving away from buggy style. The chassis were now becoming encased in metal bodies. Brass became the choice material in US car production during 1905. Soon after, full steel bodied cars were circulation including the famous Ford Model T.
Vehicle design had moved on with the times by 1919, post World War I. Manufacturers began to focus on front mounted engine†designs for their cars. For the first time, standardisation of vehicle controls began to form across the market. Fully enclosed cabins were on the increase, whereas open top cabins were declining in popularity.
World War II Era
Between the Great Depression of 1930 and the end of World War II in 1946, design juices were flowing once more. Fully enclosed bodies were all the rage, with the addition of more component integration. Fenders and running boards were now becoming fully integrated into the shell. Familiar body shapes started to appear, such as saloons with dedicated boot spaces.
Post-World War II Era
With the mist of war fading fast, automotive design sprang back into life. Ponton style body shape quickly rose in popularity. The United Kingdom starts to use strut suspension and uni-bodied designs with the Morris Minors and Rover P4.
During the most recent years, we have experienced a wide standardisation of design. Vehicle platforms are often shared between certain models and brands. Currently the majority of modern cars are uni-body designs, front wheel drive and a have transversely mounted engine. Itís exciting to imagine what our next breakthrough in the future might hold.
published: 04/09/2015 09:27:05