Automotive industry

10 innovations that revolutionized the automotive industry

The automotive industry is an ever-changing monster of power and performance. As with most areas of technology, automation has grown exponentially over the past century, and with each invention inspiring the next, new improvements seem to appear daily.

Looking at today’s supercars such as the Lotus Emira or the Ferrari GTB, it’s virtually impossible to believe they originated from the rickety steam carriages of the late 19th century. While that difference is shocking at first, the resemblance between these distant cousins ​​shines through when you learn of the inventions that led these rickety wagons down the path to supercar-dom.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of innovation within the industry is that most of these improvements were dreamed up by the inventors who originally conceptualized the cars. However, due to the limitations of technology at the time, many were not made until years or even decades later. Often, looking back is the most crucial step in beginning to change the future. That being said, here are 10 such inventions that completely changed the way manufacturers build cars, may they inspire generations of car enthusiasts to innovate.

ten Internal combustion engine

First car patented by Mercedes Benz
Via engine1

Originally conceptualized by Nicolaus Otto in 1876, then optimized by Gottleib Daimer in 1885, the internal combustion engine gave rise to the concept of the modern car. It surpassed its predecessor, the steam engine, in both efficiency and power. For the first time, automobiles had real guts to work with, which slowly gained them popularity. In 1891, Karl Benz, yes that Benz, incorporated the engine into the Benz-Motorwagen patent, the first car to combine an internal combustion engine with a chassis.

9 Monocoque frame

Monocoque frame
Via body design

Although often misidentified as a “monocoque”, a Unibody or Unit-Body chassis works by distributing the support of the car between the outer skin and the ribs of the machine, making it a “semi-monocoque”. This distribution of work alleviates the pressure otherwise placed on the frame and helps to optimize performance. First conceptualized in 1922, the Unibody chassis was not used until 1934, when a French company by the name of Citroën built the first model using this design. Almost all cars these days use some sort of Unibody chassis, with the exception of some trucks and industrial vehicles which still use the traditional “body-on-frame” design.

8 Turbochargers

Turbocharger diagram
Via Wikimedia Commons

Although first introduced in the mid-1960s, turbochargers did not gain widespread acceptance in the automotive sphere until the 1970s. The invention allowed cars to achieve higher speed and torque while using less fuel. He got his real big brake on the Formula 1 track; where car enthusiasts connect to learn about the latest and greatest innovations in automation. This collaboration made supercharging a more mainstream term, pushing it safely into the commercial market. With this growing popularity and relentless engineering advances in performance and optimization, turbochargers have quickly become interchangeable with calling your car “fast”.

Related: These are the most important turbocharged cars of all time

7 fuel injection

Fuel injection system

Originally designed in the late 1800s, fuel injectors were not properly used in automation until the mid-1980s. This need arose from the countless complications with carburetors. Being the main mechanism responsible for regulating fuel consumption, carburetors were unnecessarily complicated and used an excessive amount of energy in the distribution of the vehicle. Now that the “middle man” has been removed, fuel injection systems would directly deliver the correct amount of gasoline when needed by squirting it into the engine in short, controlled bursts. Thanks to the revolutionary invention of the modern fuel injection system, carburetors and their power-hungry nature have become obsolete.

Related:Check out this fully restored fuel-injected 1959 Chevrolet Corvette

6 Hemispherical combustion engine

Dodge 383 Hemi V8 engine
Via: YouTube

Nicknamed “Hemi”, these high-powered engines were the source of the incredible speed of the first muscle cars. Powering iconic vehicles like the Plymouth Barracuda and Dodge Daytona, hemispherical engines have left a lasting impression on the evolution of cars. By making the top of the cylinder hemispherical increasing surface area, engineers increased heat absorption and allowed the engine to run better on less fuel. As one might guess, improved fuel efficiency accounts for most of the drive for innovation within the automotive industry. Unfortunately, due to compression ratio and airflow issues, the hemispherical engines were soon replaced by sloping roof engines, which come stock on most models today.

5 Regenerative braking

Diagram of regenerative rupture
Via Fleet Equipment Magazine

First used in the cuter-than-cute 1967 AMC Amitron, regenerative braking is one of the most impressive optimization feats. The genius of regenerative braking is that it can power and charge the vehicle battery by converting the kinetic energy of braking into electricity, thus saving electricity for later. In fact, it’s one of the biggest contributors to making cars much more autonomous.

Related:AMC’s Latest Dealership Still Has Over 200 Classic Cars

4 Electronic stability control

The ESC indicator in a car
Via Fix Auto USA

On a stormy day in 1989, Mercedes-Benz engineer Frank Werner-Mohn was testing a new model in the snow when the vehicle suddenly lost control and ended up in a ditch. At that point, he vowed to fix the problem that caused the vehicle to skid. After two years of research, the engineer and his team have developed a system to stabilize skidding vehicles by automatically alternating the brakes on individual wheels. Mercedes immediately implemented the electronic stability control system in its 1995 S-Class limousine. Soon the system was integrated into all Mercedes models and even supplied other car manufacturers, making automation much more safe in the long term.

3 Power steering

Steering assisted by Bosch Mobility Solutions
Via Bosch mobility solutions

Back then, only the strongest of the strong could drive cars. Before manufacturers started equipping their models with power steering, all the tedious work of turning the wheels fell to the driver. Although this Francis Davis invention made a few appearances in the mid to late 1930s, power steering didn’t catch on until World War II. Soldiers had to drive extremely heavy vehicles over totally unfamiliar terrain; therefore, companies have turned to power steering to alleviate the effort needed to control said vehicles. After the war, manufacturers realized that power steering could benefit drivers even in the most mundane circumstances thanks to its simplified control mechanics.

2 Dual clutch transmission

DCT by Tremec Blog
Via the TREMEC blog

Have you ever looked at your single clutch transmission and thought “wouldn’t it be great if my car had two?” Well, that’s exactly what French engineer Adolphe Kégresse thought in 1939. Kégresse developed the original concept of a transmission that would work in two parts, with one clutch controlling the odd gears and the other the even gears. This way the car could maintain traction and torque while shifting from gear to gear, both up and down. Although the DCT made a few appearances during the 20th century in racing circles, it was the lowly 2003 Volkswagen Golf R32 that brought the dual-clutch transmission concept into the mainstream. Many cars these days come with some version of a DCT, from regular sedans to supercars such as the Bugatti Veyron, Mustang Shelby and Porche 911.

Related:2021 Hyundai Veloster N DCT Review: South Korea’s Hot Hatch Gets Hotter

1 Carbon fiber body

porsche 911 carrera with carbon fiber body
Through the Driving Authority

Pioneered by the BMW I3 in the early 2010s, carbon fiber bodies are one of the latest innovations in the automotive industry. With the introduction of carbon bodies, cars became lighter and therefore more fuel efficient. Much like aluminum frames, which debuted in the early 80s, carbon fiber frames have allowed similar horsepower motors to outperform their heavier cousins. Thanks to the optimization of carbon fiber production, the material has become much cheaper and easier to manufacture. This is precisely why most current models now sport a sleek and durable carbon body.

Louis Mattar

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