Automobiles are vehicles used for transportation. They were first invented in the late 1800s in Germany and perfected in France in the early twentieth century. The United States soon took control of the industry. Henry Ford pioneered mass production methods and established the “Big Three” automobile companies by the 1920s. However, the Great Depression caused the automotive industry to decline. After the war, the United States focused on war efforts, so the production of automobiles slowed. However, automobile production soared in Japan and Europe, and by the end of the century, automobiles had become a global industry.
The automobile evolved out of the dream of self-propelling carriages of the 19th century. The motorcycle merged the concept of a self-propelled bicycle with the convenience of an automobile. In 1884, Edward Butler designed the first commercial three-wheeler, using a horizontal single-cylinder gasoline engine to power the front wheels and a drive chain to propel the rear wheel.
Fuels used by automobiles are primarily gasoline and diesel. However, hydrogen is used in some trucks and buses and has been used experimentally. Fuels for automobiles must meet strict requirements, including high volatility, sufficient antiknock properties, and freedom from pollutants byproducts of combustion. Automobile fuels are reformulated seasonally to meet these requirements.